Climate Change Coming After Your Marinara

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Plum tomatoes after harvesting. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Dei Fratelli Tomatoes

Climate change is on track to interfere with tomato production — and could be especially bad news for fans of ketchup, pasta sauce and other processed tomato products.

According to a study published in Nature Food, rising temperatures are projected to lower yields around the world for “processing tomatoes” — the cultivar used in ketchup and other tomato products. By 2050, the global supply of processing tomatoes is expected to decrease 6% compared with the study’s baseline of 1990-2009, with Italy’s crop being among the hardest hit.

Researchers at the Jackson School of Geosciences, Purdue University, the University of Salerno, the University of Florida and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies collaborated on the study.

Study co-author Dev Niyogi, a professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, said that while the climate’s impact on the food supply is widely researched, most of the focus has been on staples such as wheat and rice. This study is among the first to take a global look at climate change’s impact on tomatoes.

The researchers used five climate models to inform three scenarios projecting how rising temperatures will influence tomato yield, focusing on the world’s top three tomato-growing countries: the United States (California in particular), Italy and China. Together, these countries produce about 65% of the world’s processing tomatoes.

Although the outcomes varied, the projected scenarios all pointed to a future where tomato production will dramatically change during the coming decades. Most scenarios show the three countries experiencing steady yield declines over the next 30-40 years.

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