While corn production in Texas may not be as significant as in the Midwest Corn Belt, the state’s annual two million-plus acres of corn is still a major contributor to the state’s agricultural profile. But with lingering drought conditions in parts of the state and the prospect of climate change that could bring periods of less rainfall in the years ahead, is it possible that growing corn in Texas could become a thing of the past? 

According to a new study from Purdue and Stanford University researchers, corn acres in warm climate regions like Texas and even as far north as the Corn Belt could diminish as drought conditions intensify and yields suffer. In fact, the study indicates the U.S. could lose corn acreage to Canada as temperatures soar and prices spike as a result of crop shortages.

Professor Thomas Hertel and university researcher Noah Diffenbaugh teamed up to conduct the study. Hertel is a distinguished professor of agricultural economics at Purdue and Diffenbaugh is an assistant professor of earth sciences at Stanford.

The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, indicate that severely hot conditions in corn-growing regions and extreme climate events that are expected to impact supply could cause extreme swings in corn prices. Further complicating the volatility of future corn prices will be federal mandates for biofuel production.  As a result, prices could increase by about 50 percent from 2020 through 2040, according to the study.

"There could be a substantial increase in yield volatility, and that's due to the increased frequency and intensity of the high temperatures throughout the Corn Belt," said Hertel. "Closer integration of the corn and energy markets through the ethanol industry could aid in buffering these shocks.”