Climate change in south-west Australia and north-west China: challenges and opportunities for crop production

Neil C. Turner, Nicholas Molyneux, Sen Yang, You-Cai Xiong, Kadambot H.M. Siddique - Crop & Pasture Science, 62, pages 445-456

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

This research article discusses climate change in south-west Australia and north-west China and the challenges and opportunities that will exist for crop production. The adaptation to slow, steady increases in temperature and decreases in rainfall can be accommodated through breeding and management.

What is the problem?

The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. World food production to support this population needs to increase by at least 60% while at the same time maintaining the resource base and protecting the environment (World Bank 2007). In this paper, the impact of and adaptation to climate change on crop production will be highlighted, recognizing the pressures on food production from the aforementioned constraints

What did the research involve?

The research involves predictions from climate simulation regarding temperatures in China and south-west Australia as well as the frequency of heat waves.

What were the key findings?

Predictions from climate simulation models suggest that by 2050 mean temperatures on the Loess Plateau of China will increase by 2.5 to 3.758C, while those in the cropping region of south-west Australia will increase by 1.25 to 1.758C. By 2050, rainfall is not expected to change on the Loess Plateau of China, while in south-west Australia rainfall is predicted to decrease by 20 to 60 mm. The frequency of heat waves and dry spells is predicted to increase in both regions. The implications of rising temperatures are an acceleration of crop phenology and a reduction in crop yields, greater risk of reproductive failure from extreme temperatures, and greater risk of crop failure. The reduction in yield from increased phenological development can be countered by selecting longer-season cultivars and taking advantage of warmer minimum temperatures and reduced frost risk to plant earlier than with current temperatures. Breeding for tolerance to extreme temperatures will be necessary to counter the increased frequency of extreme temperatures, while a greater emphasis on breeding for increased drought resistance and precipitation-use efficiency will lessen the impact of reduced rainfall. Management options likely to be adopted in south-west Australia include the introduction of drought-tolerant perennial fodder species and shifting cropping to higher-rainfall areas.

Final Comment

Steadily increasing mean, maximum and minimum temperatures, and a greater frequency of heat waves are predicted for both north-west of China and south-west Australia providing both challenges and opportunities for crop production in the two regions and indeed for similar semi-arid regions of the world. While warmer temperatures will speed up phenological development, the selection of longer-season cultivars and species acclimated and adapted to higher temperatures, and the development of technologies for quicker and earlier planting will assist in maintaining yields. The decrease in rainfall and greater frequency of droughts in south-west Australia and the greater frequency of dry spells in parts of north-east China present greater challenges.

2011 - Australia - Neil C. Turner, Nicholas Molyneux, Sen Yang, You-Cai Xiong, Kadambot H.M. Siddique - Crop & Pasture Science, 62, pages 445-456
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