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 is published today 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models were compared within the Agricultural Model Inter-comparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) with two previously unpublished data sets from field experiments in which wheat was exposed to growing season mean temperatures ranging from 15 to 32°C.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."
Notes to editors
Publication: 'Rising temperatures reduce global wheat production' Nature Climate Change DOI:10.1038/nclimate2470
About Rothamsted Research
We are the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for nearly 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production. Our strength lies in the integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant, insect and soil science.
Rothamsted Research is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2013-2014 Rothamsted Research received a total of £32.9M from BBSRC.
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