We quantify long-run adaptation of U.S. corn and soybean yields to changes in temperature and precipitation over 1951–2017. Results show that although the two crops became more heat- and drought-tolerant, their productivity under normal temperature and precipitation conditions decreased. Over 1951–2017, heat- and drought-tolerance increased corn and soybean yields by 33% and 20%, whereas maladaptation to normal conditions reduced yields by 41% and 87%, respectively, with large spatial variations in effects. Changes in climate are projected to reduce average corn and soybean yields by 39–68% and 86–92%, respectively, by 2050 relative to 2013–2017 depending on the warming scenario. After incorporating estimated effects of climate-neutral technological advances, the net change in yield ranges from (−)13 to 62% for corn and (−)57 to (−)26% for soybeans in 2050 relative to 2013–2017. Our analysis uncovers the inherent trade-offs and limitations of existing approaches to crop adaptation.
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