Modelling the sensitivity of wheat growth and water balance to climate change in Southeast Australia

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Journal Article
Climatic Change, 2009, 96 (1), pp. 79 - 96
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A simulation study was carried out to assess the potential sensitivity of wheat growth and water balance components to likely climate change scenarios at Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. Specific processes considered include crop development, growth rate, grain yield, water use efficiency, evapotranspiration, runoff and deep drainage. Individual impacts of changes in temperature, rainfall and CO2 concentration ([CO2]) and the combined impacts of these three variables were analysed for 2050 ([CO2] = 570 ppm, T +2.3°C, P -7%) and 2070 ([CO2] = 720 ppm, T +3.8°C, P -10%) conditions. Two different rainfall change scenarios (changes in rainfall intensity or rainfall frequency) were used to modify historical rainfall data. The Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) was used to simulate the growth and water balance processes for a 117 year period of baseline, 2050 and 2070 climatic conditions. The results showed that wheat yield reduction caused by 1°C increase in temperature and 10% decrease in rainfall could be compensated by a 266 ppm increase in [CO2] assuming no interactions between the individual effects. Temperature increase had little impact on long-term average water balance, while [CO2] increase reduced evapotranspiration and increased deep drainage. Length of the growing season of wheat decreased 22 days in 2050 and 35 days in 2070 conditions as a consequence of 2.3°C and 3.8°C increase in temperature respectively. Yield in 2050 was approximately 1% higher than the simulated baseline yield of 4,462 kg ha-1, but it was 6% lower in 2070. An early maturing cultivar (Hartog) was more sensitive in terms of yield response to temperature increase, while a mid-maturing cultivar (Janz) was more sensitive to rainfall reduction. Janz could benefit more from increase in CO2 concentration. Rainfall reduction across all rainfall events would have a greater negative impact on wheat yield and WUE than if only smaller rainfall events reduced in magnitude, even given the same total decrease in annual rainfall. The greater the reduction in rainfall, the larger was the difference. The increase in temperature increased the difference of impact between the two rainfall change scenarios while increase in [CO2] reduced the difference. © Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009.
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