What would be the impact of a nuclear winter on food production?

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The research acknowledges what has been widely agreed for decades: in higher latitude countries – such as the nuclear powers, the United States and Russia – there would be no agricultural production and little food gathering. possible during a nuclear winter after a total conflagration. If the warring countries released much of their nuclear arsenals, the resulting global sun-blocking cloud would turn the ground into permafrost.

A nuclear war would result in a global blockage of the sun for several years due to injections of black carbon soot into the upper atmosphere, covering most of the planet in dark clouds, the researchers said. Computer models predict that a major nuclear war, primarily between Russia and the United States, could inject more than 165 million tons of soot into the upper atmosphere from more than 4,000 nuclear bomb explosions and burnings of resulting forest.

Such a nuclear war could result in less than 40% of normal light levels near the equator and less than 5% of normal light levels near the poles, with freezing temperatures in most temperate regions and large reductions in precipitation. – only half of the world average – according to the study. Post-disaster conditions, which could last 15 years in some tropical rainforests like those in the Congo and Amazon basins, could result in a 90% reduction in rainfall for several years after such an event.

But the rainforests would provide an opportunity for limited food production and gathering by locals because, despite the dense soot clouds, the area would be warmer. In the study, the researchers classified edible wild plants into seven main categories, plus forest insects: fruits, leafy vegetables, seeds/nuts, roots, spices, sweets and proteins.

In nuclear winter, the study shows that the following foods would be available in varying degrees in tropical forests: konjac, cassava, wild oyster mushroom, safou, wild spinach, vegetable amaranth, palm, mopane worm, dilo, tamarind, baobab, enset , acacia, yam and palm weevil.

The researchers chose 33 edible wild plants from a list of 247 and considered their potential for cultivation in rainforests under post-nuclear war conditions. Their selections were complicated by the fact that in the tropics there are relatively few host plants that are both drought tolerant and shade or low light tolerant.

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