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Intensity of heat stress in winter wheat—phenology compensates for the adverse effect of global warming

Last modified May 18, 2015 09:17

Environmental Research Letters Volume 10 Number 2. Intensity of heat stress in winter wheat—phenology compensates for the adverse effect of global warming. Ehsan Eyshi Rezaei, Stefan Siebert and Frank Ewert.

Higher temperatures during the growing season are likely to reduce crop yields with implications for crop production and food security. The negative impact of heat stress has also been predicted to increase even further for cereals such as wheat under climate change. Previous empirical modeling studies have focused on the magnitude and frequency of extreme events during the growth period but did not consider the effect of higher temperature on crop phenology. Based on an extensive set of climate and phenology observations for Germany and period 1951–2009, interpolated to 1 × 1 km resolution and provided as supplementary data to this article (available at stacks.iop.org/ERL/10/024012/mmedia), we demonstrate a strong relationship between the mean temperature in spring and the day of heading (DOH) of winter wheat. We show that the cooling effect due to the 14 days earlier DOH almost fully compensates for the adverse effect of global warming on frequency and magnitude of crop heat stress. Earlier heading caused by the warmer spring period can prevent exposure to extreme heat events around anthesis, which is the most sensitive growth stage to heat stress. Consequently, the intensity of heat stress around anthesis in winter crops cultivated in Germany may not increase under climate change even if the number and duration of extreme heat waves increase. However, this does not mean that global warning would not harm crop production because of other impacts, e.g. shortening of the grain filling period. Based on the trends for the last 34 years in Germany, heat stress (stress thermal time) around anthesis would be 59% higher in year 2009 if the effect of high temperatures on accelerating wheat phenology were ignored. We conclude that climate impact assessments need to consider both the effect of high temperature on grain set at anthesis but also on crop phenology.

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