Warmer growing seasons and milder winters could allow some insects to expand their territory and produce an extra generation of offspring each year, said Purdue University Associate Professor Noah Diffenbaugh.
"The greatest potential range expansion was seen with the corn earworm, which is known to infest other high-value crops such as sweet corn and tomatoes," said Diffenbaugh, interim director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. "Warming could allow populations to survive the winter in the upper Midwest … as well as areas of the West where other high-value crops are grown."
Diffenbaugh noted the United States contributes nearly half of the world's total corn production.
"The world depends on U.S corn production for a variety of uses," he said. "Ethanol production and a growing world population are increasing demand for corn. Expansion of the pests' ranges could have substantial impacts through decreased yields and increased costs for seed and pest management."
The research that included Purdue Professors Christian Krupke and Corinne Alexander, as well as Michael White from Utah State University, was recently published in the online edition of the journal Environmental Research Letters.