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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Urbana, Illinois » Global Change and Photosynthesis Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #396200

Research Project: Optimizing Photosynthesis for Global Change and Improved Yield

Location: Global Change and Photosynthesis Research

Title: Genetic progress battles climate variability: drivers of soybean yield gains in China from 2006 to 2020

item YIN, XIAOGANG - China Agricultural University
item ZHANG, LI - China Agricultural University
item ZHENG, HAOYU - China Agricultural University
item LI, WENJIE - China Agricultural University
item OLESEN, JORGEN EIVIND - Aarhuis University
item HARRISON, MATTHEW TOM - University Of Tasmania
item BAI, ZHIYUAN - China Agricultural University
item ZOU, JUN - China Agricultural University
item ZHENG, AXIANG - China Agricultural University
item Bernacchi, Carl
item XU, XINGYAO - China Agricultural University
item PENG, BIN - University Of Illinois
item LIU, KE - University Of Tasmania
item CHEN, FU - China Agricultural University

Submitted to: Agronomy for Sustainable Development
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/14/2023
Publication Date: 8/1/2023
Citation: Yin, X., Zhang, L., Zheng, H., Li, W., Olesen, J., Harrison, M., Bai, Z., Zou, J., Zheng, A., Bernacchi, C.J., Xu, X., Peng, B., Liu, K., Chen, F. 2023. Genetic progress battles climate variability: drivers of soybean yield gains in China from 2006 to 2020. Agronomy for Sustainable Development. 43(5). Article 50.

Interpretive Summary: Crop improvements are critical to continue to meet the global demand for food, especially considering the substantial challenges to the globe that are caused by human activities. The need to continue improving crops is a global challenge that must be met at regional scales. While many parts of the world have realized increases in food production, there is substantial uncertainty regarding whether crop production has improved in other locations. This study analyzes data for soybean from 2006-2020 on thousands of plots throughout China to determine the rate of crop improvement and impacts of climate variability on soybean productivity. The analysis looked at region-specific results to understand how genetic improvements and climate change are impacting crop yields. The results show that crop production has improved throughout this time period and the most improved crops lost productivity with higher temperatures. However, the highest yielding cultivars showed increases in productivity with higher temperatures. This study shows the important of crop improvement and climate change on soybean production and carry implications beyond just soybean production in China to the rest of the world, including the United States.

Technical Abstract: Improvement of soybean production under a changing climate will be integral to ensuring China’s future food security, yet the relative importance of genetic progress through introduction of new cultivars to national soybean production remains uncertain. Here, we compiled 16,934 cultivar-site-year observations from experiments during the period of 2006-2020 to explore the impacts of genetic progress and climate variability on China’s soybean productivity. The mean soybean yield in Northeast China (NEC), Huang-Huai-Hai Plain (HHH) and Southern Multi-cropping Region (SMR) was 2,830, 2,852 and 2,554 kg ha -1 during the recent 15 years, respectively. Genetic progress contributed significantly to China’s soybean yield gains though driving mechanisms varied across regions. Increased pod number per plant (PNPP) primarily underpinned yield gains in the NEC, while both increased PNPP and 100-grain weight (100-GW) contributed to yield gains in the HHH. In all regions, longer reproductive growth periods primarily led to increased PNPP, 100-GW and yield improvement. In addition, greater heat stress exposure in the reproductive growth period in the NEC and HHH reduced average yields. Nevertheless, superior yielding cultivars (top 25%) in the HHH responded positively to heat stress during the reproductive growth phases, indicating that these cultivars had benefited from genetic improvement in heat stress resilience. Our results highlight the importance of genetic improvements in pursuing yield gains under climate warming and increasingly frequent heat stress. These insights will help contribute to Chinese and global food security in the future.