Crop yield reduction in the tropics under climate change: processes and uncertainties

Challinor, A.J. and Wheeler, T.R. (2008) Crop yield reduction in the tropics under climate change: processes and uncertainties. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 148 (3). pp. 343-356.

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Many modelling studies examine the impacts of climate change on crop yield, but few explore either the underlying bio-physical processes, or the uncertainty inherent in the parameterisation of crop growth and development. We used a perturbed-parameter crop modelling method together with a regional climate model (PRECIS) driven by the 2071–2100 SRES A2 emissions scenario in order to examine processes and uncertainties in yield simulation. Crop simulations used the groundnut (i.e. peanut; Arachis hypogaea L.) version of the General Large-Area Model for annual crops (GLAM). Two sets of GLAM simulations were carried out: control simulations and fixed-duration simulations, where the impact of mean temperature on crop development rate was removed. Model results were compared to sensitivity tests using two other crop models of differing levels of complexity: CROPGRO, and the groundnut model of Hammer et al. [Hammer, G.L., Sinclair, T.R., Boote, K.J., Wright, G.C., Meinke, H., and Bell, M.J., 1995, A peanut simulation model: I. Model development and testing. Agron. J. 87, 1085–1093]. GLAM simulations were particularly sensitive to two processes. First, elevated vapour pressure deficit (VPD) consistently reduced yield. The same result was seen in some simulations using both other crop models. Second, GLAM crop duration was longer, and yield greater, when the optimal temperature for the rate of development was exceeded. Yield increases were also seen in one other crop model. Overall, the models differed in their response to super-optimal temperatures, and that difference increased with mean temperature; percentage changes in yield between current and future climates were as diverse as −50% and over +30% for the same input data. The first process has been observed in many crop experiments, whilst the second has not. Thus, we conclude that there is a need for: (i) more process-based modelling studies of the impact of VPD on assimilation, and (ii) more experimental studies at super-optimal temperatures. Using the GLAM results, central values and uncertainty ranges were projected for mean 2071–2100 crop yields in India. In the fixed-duration simulations, ensemble mean yields mostly rose by 10–30%. The full ensemble range was greater than this mean change (20–60% over most of India). In the control simulations, yield stimulation by elevated CO2 was more than offset by other processes – principally accelerated crop development rates at elevated, but sub-optimal, mean temperatures. Hence, the quantification of uncertainty can facilitate relatively robust indications of the likely sign of crop yield changes in future climates.

Item Type: Article
Author Affiliation: The Walker Institute, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading RG66BB, UK
Subjects: Atmosperic Science > Climatology
Divisions: General
Depositing User: Sandhya Gir
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2011 18:22
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2011 18:23
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