Diverse sensitivity of winter crops over the growing season to climate and land surface temperature across the rainfed cropland-belt of eastern Australia

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Journal Article
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 2018, 254 pp. 99 - 110
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. The rainfed cropland belt in Australia is of great importance to the world grain market but has the highest climate variability of all such regions globally. However, the spatial-temporal impacts of climate variability on crops during different crop growth stages across broadacre farming systems are largely unknown. This study aims to quantify the contributions of climate and Land Surface Temperature (LST) variations to the variability of the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) by using remote sensing methods. The datasets were analyzed at an 8-day time-scale across the rainfed cropland of eastern Australia. First, we found that EVI values were more variable during the crop reproductive growth stages than at any other crop life stage within a calendar year, but nevertheless had the highest correlation with crop grain yield (t ha −1 ). Second, climate factors and LST during the crop reproductive growth stages showed the largest variability and followed a typical east-west gradient of rainfall and a north-south temperature gradient across the study area during the crop growing season. Last, we identified two critical 8-day periods, beginning on day of the year (DoY) 257 and 289, as the key ‘windows’ of crop growth variation that arose from the variability in climate and LST. Our results show that the sum of the variability of the climate components within these two 8-day ‘windows’ explained >88% of the variability in the EVI, with LST being the dominant factor. This study offers a fresh understanding of the spatial-temporal climate-crop relationships in rainfed cropland and can serve as an early warning system for agricultural adaptation in broadacre rainfed cropping practices in Australia and worldwide.
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