Earlier crop flowering caused by global warming alleviated by irrigation
Muleke, A and Harrison, MT and de Voil, P and Hunt, I and Liu, K and Yanotti, M and Eisner, R, Earlier crop flowering caused by global warming alleviated by irrigation, Environmental Research Letters, 17, (4) Article 044032. ISSN 1748-9326 (2022) [Refereed Article]
Enabling crop flowering within an optimal calendar window minimises long-term risk of abiotic stress exposure, improving prospects for attaining potential yield. Here, we define the optimal flowering period (OFP) as the calendar time in which long-term risk of frost, water and heat stress are collectively minimised. Using the internationally-renowned farming systems model Agricultural Systems Production Systems sIMulator, we characterised combined effects of climate change and extreme climatic events on the OFPs of barley, durum wheat, canola, chickpeas, fababean and maize from 1910 to 2021. We generate response surfaces for irrigated and dryland conditions using a range of representative sowing times for early and late maturity genotypes. Global warming truncated crop lifecycles, shifting forward flowering of winter crops by 2–43 d in dryland environments, and by −6–19 d in environments with irrigation. Alleviation of water stress by irrigation delayed OFPs by 3–25 d or 11–30 d for early and late maturity winter crops, respectively, raising average yields of irrigated crops by 44%. Even so, irrigation was unable to completely negate the long-term yield penalty caused by the climate crisis; peak yields respectively declined by 24% and 13% for rainfed and irrigated crops over the 111 years simulation duration. We conclude with two important insights: (a) use of irrigation broadens OFPs, providing greater sowing time flexibility and likelihood of realising potential yields compared with dryland conditions and (b), the most preferable maturity durations for irrigated winter and summer crops to maximise potential yields are early-sown long-season (late) and later-sown short-season (early) maturity types, respectively.
irrigation, water, flowering time, phenology, rice, wheat, maize, modeling, APSIM, policy, Murray-Darling Basin, water use efficiency, climate change, food security, adaptation, genotype, development, grain yield, drought, extreme weather events