Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 3, 2009
Publication Date: November 14, 2011
Citation: Sicher Jr, R.C., Kim, S. 2011. Photosynthesis, growth and maize yields in the context of global change. In: Prioul, C. Thévenot, Molnar, T., editors. Advances in Maize, Essential Reviews in Experimental Biology, Vol. 3. London: Society of Experimental Biology. p. 373-392.
Maize is the third most important grain crop behind wheat and rice. Global mean temperatures are rising primarily due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. Warmer temperatures over major landmasses are predicted to alter precipitation patterns and to increase the frequency of both flooding and drought. Taken together these physical changes are predicted to have a deleterious effect on maize yields. This review argues that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels has negligible direct effects on the growth and yield of maize. Small increases of air temperatures are predicted to improve maize yields. However, large increases of air temperatures (> 5 °C) are deleterious to maize yields and this was primarily due to a shortening of the reproductive growth phase of the maize crop. The effects of climate change on maize yields are likely to be greater for locations near the equator than for crop production in temperate regions. Additional research on avoiding plant stress and on improving maize yields under elevated temperatures will be needed in the near future in order to mitigate the predicted effects of climate change on the cultivation of maize.