Modelling wheat yield change under CO<inf>2</inf> increase, heat and water stress in relation to plant available water capacity in eastern Australia

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Journal Article
European Journal of Agronomy, 2017, 90 pp. 152 - 161
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Increasing heat and water stress are important threats to wheat growth in rain-fed conditions. Using climate scenario-based projections from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5), we analysed changes in the probability of heat stress around wheat flowering and relative yield loss due to water stress at six locations in eastern Australia. As a consequence of warmer average temperatures, wheat flowering occurred earlier, but the probability of heat stress around flowering still increased by about 3.8%–6.2%. Simulated potential yield across six sites increased on average by about 2.5% regardless of the emission scenario. However, simulated water-limited yield tended to decline at wet and cool locations under future climate while increased at warm and dry locations. Soils with higher plant available water capacity (PAWC) showed a lower response of water-limited yield to rainfall changes except at very dry sites, which means soils with high PAWC were less affected by rainfall changes compared with soils with low PAWC. Our results also indicated that a drought stress index decreased with increasing PAWC and then stagnated at high PAWC. Under high emission scenario RCP8.5, drought stress was expected to decline or stay about the same due to elevated CO2 compensation effect. Therefore, to maintain or increase yield potential in response to the projected climate change, increasing cultivar tolerance to heat stress and improving crop management to reduce impacts of water stress on lower plant available water holding soils should be a priority for the genetic improvement of wheat in eastern Australia.
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