David Lobell is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Earth System Science and Associate Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University. His research focuses on identifying opportunities to raise crop yields in major agricultural regions, with a particular emphasis on adaptation to climate change. His current projects span Africa, South Asia, Mexico, and the United States, and involve a range of tools including remote sensing, GIS, and crop and climate models.
Lobell's work is motivated by questions such as: What investments are most effective at raising global crop yields, in order to increase food production without expansion of agricultural lands? Will yield gains be able to keep pace with global demand for crop products, given current levels of investment? And what direct or indirect effects will efforts to raise crop productivity have on other components of the Earth System, such as climate? Answering these requires an understanding of the complex factors that limit crop yields throughout the world, and the links between agriculture and the broader Earth System.
Current work focuses on three main areas of research.
Food security, crop yields, and climate change - What are the risks that climate change poses to regional and global food production? And what are the specific adaptations that should be pursued to reduce the risk of impacts from imminent climate changes?
Identifying constraints to regional crop yields - One of the most remarkable aspects of modern agriculture is that yields in farmers' fields vary widely, with average yields in a region consistently 30% or more below yields achieved on some fields.
Environmental consequences of food and biofuel production - The major systems of the Earth - water, energy, food, climate, carbon, nitrogen, etc. - are tightly interconnected. This means, for example, that a decision in the energy system has implications for climate and food, and conversely that a change in the food system has consequences for energy and climate.
Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Lobell was a Senior Research Scholar at FSE from 2008-2009 and a Lawrence Post-doctoral Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 2005-2007. He received a PhD in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University in 2005, and a Sc.B. in Applied Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude from Brown University in 2000.
Research shows climate change may shrink wheat crops Professor David Lobell from Stanford University used nine years worth of satellite images to observe when Indian wheat crops turned brown, that is when they stopped growing. He looked at what happened when temperatures exceeded 34 degrees Celsius; ... January 30, 2012 in ABC Online
Wheat will age prematurely in a warmer world David Lobell of Stanford University in California used nine years of images from the MODIS Earth-observation satellite to track when wheat in this region turned from green to brown, a sign that the grain is no longer growing. January 29, 2012 in New Scientist
Crop scientists now fret about heat, not just water For years, as scientists have assembled data on climate change and pointed with concern at melting glaciers and other visible changes in the life-giving water cycle, the impact on seasonal rains and irrigation has worried crop watchers most. But scientists now wonder if a more immediate issue is an unusual rise in day-time and, especially, night-time summer temperatures being seen in crop belts around the world. October 24, 2011 in msnbc.com
Stanford Scientist Criticizes Fox Distortion Of His Climate Study Stanford's David Lobell, one of the authors of the study, explained in an email that he was "disappointed" in both the Fox Nation and Ottawa Citizen coverage, which "do not accurately portray our findings." He added: The study was only focusing on one ... May 11, 2011 in Media Matters for America (blog)