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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Technologies for Managing Water and Sediment Movement in Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research Unit

Title: Is the change of winter wheat yield under warming caused by shortened reproductive period?

Authors
item Hou, Ruixing -
item Ouyang, Zhu -
item Li, Yusheng -
item Wilson, Glenn
item Li, Hanxia -

Submitted to: Ecology and Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 17, 2012
Publication Date: November 2, 2012
Citation: Hou, R., Ouyang, Z., Li, Y., Wilson, G.V., Li, H. 2012. Is the change of winter wheat yield under warming caused by shortened reproductive period?. Ecology and Evolution. 2(12):2999-3008.

Interpretive Summary: Understanding the response of winter wheat growth and yield to increases in temperature is important for projecting the impact of global warming on food production. A field experiment involving heating plots freely open to atmospheric conditions was conducted to measure the response of winter wheat under conventional tillage (CT) and no-till (NT) systems in the North China Plain (NCP). Long-term (since 2003) CT and NT plots in the NCP were warmed as much as 1.3 to 1.9°C (daytime and nighttime, respectively) above background (control) plots using infrared heaters. The growth stages of the wheat and wheat yield were recorded along with canopy and soil temperatures and soil moisture. Wheat yields were not significantly reduced over the two seasons (2010 and 2011) by continuous warming but yields under NT were 3.3% and 7.5% lower, respectively whereas yields under CT were not changed. The growing seasons for both CT and NT were shortened by 6 days in 2010 and 13 days in 2011. This was due to significantly shorter period of re-greening followed by minimal changes in other growth stages (i.e., jointing, flagging, heading, flowering, grain-filling). The time shift in growth by warming resulted in lower mean air temperature (MAT) for warmed plots for the growth stages after re-greening than the control because these same stages for control plots occurred later in the season. Warming increased the number of tillers per area and tended to decrease the number of spikes per area in the two tillage systems. Warming increased the weight of the kernels but no consistent or significant effects on number of fertile or sterile spikelets per spike or number of kernels per spike. The heavier kernels offset the yield reduction that is sometimes observed from having more tillers. Warming increased the wheat aboveground biomass for both tillage systems suggesting the potential to store more carbon and produce more biofuels. This study suggest that winter wheat might adjust its growth (shortened vegetative period) which can partly compensate for potential negative effects from global warming in this temperate irrigated cropland.

Technical Abstract: Understanding the response of winter wheat growth and yield to climate change is essential for projecting grain production in a future warmer world. A field-scale open-warming experiment was conducted to quantify the response of winter wheat growth and yield under conventional tillage (CT) and no-till (NT) systems in the North China Plain (NCP). Long-term (since 2003) CT and NT plots in the NCP were warmed between 1.3 to 1.9°C (daytime and nighttime, respectively) by infrared heaters and the phenology and yield of winter wheat recorded along with canopy and soil temperatures and soil moisture. Wheat yields were not significantly reduced over the two seasons (2010 and 2011) by continuous warming but yields under NT were 3.3% and 7.5% lower, respectively whereas yields under CT were stable. The growing seasons for both CT and NT were shortened 6 days in 2010 and 13 days in 2011. The shortened days were due to a significantly shorter re-greening stage followed by minimal changes in other phenological stages (jointing, flagging, heading, anthesis, grain-filling). The temporal advance by warming resulted in lower mean air temperature (MAT) for warmed plots than the control from 0.14 to 4.22 ' for the same subsequent phenological stages. Warming increased the number of tillers per m-2 and tended to decrease the number of spikes per m-2 in the two tillage systems. Among the components of grain yield, warming increased kernel weight but no consistent or significant effects on number of fertile or sterile spikelets per spike or number of kernels per spike. The heavier kernels offset the yield reduction from more tillers. Warming increased the wheat aboveground biomass from 10%-20% for both tillage systems suggesting the potential to sequester more CO2 and produce more biofuels. This study suggest that winter wheat might adjust its growth (shortened vegetative period) to partly compensate for the negative effects from global warming in this temperate irrigated cropland.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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