US maize and soy production have increased rapidly since the mid-20th century. While global warming has raised temperatures in most regions over this time period, trends in extreme heat have been smaller over US croplands, reducing crop-damaging high temperatures and benefiting maize and soy yields. Here we show that agricultural intensification has created a crop-climate feedback in which increased crop production cools local climate, further raising crop yields. We find that maize and soy production trends have driven cooling effects approximately as large as greenhouse gas induced warming trends in extreme heat over the central US and substantially reduced them over the southern US, benefiting crops in all regions. This reduced warming has boosted maize and soy yields by 3.3 (2.7-3.9; 13.7%-20.0%) and 0.6 (0.4-0.7; 7.5%-13.7%) bu/ac/decade, respectively, between 1981 and 2019. Our results suggest that if maize and soy production growth were to stagnate, the ability of the crop-climate feedback to mask warming would fade, exposing US crops to more harmful heat extremes.
- climate change
- crop climate interaction
- extreme heat
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Environmental Science(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health