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Rising temperatures predicted to lower wheat yields

An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects of climate change on global wheat yields.

Their multi-model predictions indicated global wheat production losses of 6% for each degree centigrade of global warming with increased variability of yield across regions and seasons. The study has been published in Nature Climate Change.

The researchers, including from Rothamsted Research, which is strategically supported by BBSRC, used for the first time systematic multi-model testing with field and artificial heating experiments to focus on wheat responses to high temperatures.

Understanding how different climate factors impact food production is essential for adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

Thirty wheat crop models were compared within the Agricultural Model Inter-comparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) with two previously unpublished data sets from field experiments in which wheat was exposed to growing season mean temperatures ranging from 15 to 32°C.

Extrapolating the multi-model ensemble's predictions indicated global wheat production losses of 6% for each degree centigrade of global warming with increased variability of yield across regions and seasons.

Dr Mikhail Semenov, whose team at Rothamsted Research contributed to this research, said: "Options exist to adapt and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on global wheat production."

"Breeding for late maturing cultivars with longer grain filling to recapture the temperature-induced loss of biomass and grain yield could be beneficial as long as exposure to heat stress and terminal drought does not become counter-productive. Optimizing this trade-off should be region specific, and crop modelling is a key exploration tool to underpin crop adaptation for a changing climate."

Professor Martin Parry, leading the 20:20® Wheat Institute Strategic Programme at Rothamsted Research commented: "This is an excellent example of collaborative research which will help ensure that we have the knowledge needed to develop the crops for the future environments."

 

Story source: BBSRC news release, 22 Dec 2014

Journal reference: S. Asseng et al. Rising temperatures reduce global wheat production. Nature Climate Change (2014). Published online 22 December 2014.  doi:10.1038/nclimate2470

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