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Adverse weather conditions for European wheat production will become more frequent with climate change

Abstract

Europe is the largest producer of wheat, the second most widely grown cereal crop after rice. The increased occurrence and magnitude of adverse and extreme agroclimatic events are considered a major threat for wheat production. We present an analysis that accounts for a range of adverse weather events that might significantly affect wheat yield in Europe. For this purpose we analysed changes in the frequency of the occurrence of 11 adverse weather events. Using climate scenarios based on the most recent ensemble of climate models and greenhouse gases emission estimates, we assessed the probability of single and multiple adverse events occurring within one season. We showed that the occurrence of adverse conditions for 14 sites representing the main European wheat-growing areas might substantially increase by 2060 compared to the present (1981–2010). This is likely to result in more frequent crop failure across Europe. This study provides essential information for developing adaptation strategies.

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Figure 1: Overview of the wheat-growing area and environmental zones in Europe.
Figure 2: Dates of key phenological stages and values of agroclimatic indicators for baseline and projected climate conditions.
Figure 3: Probability of the occurrence of adverse agroclimatic conditions under baseline and projected climate.
Figure 4: Effect of the selected cultivar type on the probability of occurrence of adverse events from sowing to maturity.

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Acknowledgements

Support from J. Balek (programming and data handling) and D. Semerádová (preparation of Fig. 1) is greatly appreciated. This study was performed thanks to the support of the FACCE-JPI knowledge hub and project MACSUR. The contributions of M.T and Z.Z were funded through a project of the National Agency for Agricultural Research (project ‘Crop modelling as a tool for increasing the production potential and food security of the Czech Republic under Climate Change’ no. QJ1310123) and the ‘Establishment of International Scientific Team Focused on Drought Research’ (no. OP VK CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0248). R.P.R. was funded by the Academy of Finland’s NORFASYS project (decision no. 268277). M.R-R. was funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MULCLIVAR project CGL2012-38923-C02-02). Rothamsted Research receives grant-aided support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the UK. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups (listed in Supplementary Table 2) for making available their model output.

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Contributions

M.T., M.A.S. and R.P.R. conceived and planned the study; M.T. and Z.Z. led the AgriClim software development; M.T., M.R-R., R.P.R., J.E.O. and K.C.K. performed the parameterization of the software; M.T. performed the calculation and initial analysis; M.A.S. was responsible for development of climate change scenarios and weather data. All the authors jointly developed the final set of indices and contributed to writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Miroslav Trnka.

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Trnka, M., Rötter, R., Ruiz-Ramos, M. et al. Adverse weather conditions for European wheat production will become more frequent with climate change. Nature Clim Change 4, 637–643 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2242

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