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Climate Change Threatens Potato Chip Production, Global Food Storage

Climate Change Threatens Potato Chip Production, Global Food Storage
The most popular type of Michigan potato is the round white, used as a fresh market potato and for chips. Randy Schaetzl, professor of geography at Michigan State University

Climate change poses significant dangers to global food supplies as rising temperatures make storage more difficult, The Associated Press reports.

Food around the world is stored outside after harvest, before processing, but rising temperatures and other altered weather patterns threaten to drive prices higher as more food is lost and producers are forced to install costly equipment to protect food stores.

Rising temperatures will make it easier for insects and mold to destroy grain stores in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Mecosta, Michigan, Brian Sackett was forced to spend $125,000 on a new refrigeration unit to protect what will become potato chips. Michigan potato farmers have long been able to rely on fans and cool air from the September harvest to late spring to keep their potatoes fresh. But the annual period in which outdoor air in the region is cool enough to store potatoes will likely drop by as much as 17 days in the next 30 years. "Our good, fresh, cool air is getting less all the time, it seems like," Sackett said.

For a deeper dive:

The Associated Press; Climate Signals background: Air mass temperature increase, Atmospheric moisture increase

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