Abstract

Crop models are essential tools for assessing the threat of climate change to local and global food production1. Present models used to predict wheat grain yield are highly uncertain when simulating how crops respond to temperature2. Here we systematically tested 30 different wheat crop models of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project against field experiments in which growing season mean temperatures ranged from 15 °C to 32 °C, including experiments with artificial heating. Many models simulated yields well, but were less accurate at higher temperatures. The model ensemble median was consistently more accurate in simulating the crop temperature response than any single model, regardless of the input information used. Extrapolating the model ensemble temperature response indicates that warming is already slowing yield gains at a majority of wheat-growing locations. Global wheat production is estimated to fall by 6% for each °C of further temperature increase and become more variable over space and time.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project and its leaders C. Rosenzweig from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University (USA), J. Jones from University of Florida (USA), J. Hatfield from United States Department of Agriculture (USA) and J. Antle from Oregon State University (USA) for support. We also thank M. Lopez from CIMMYT (Turkey), M. Usman Bashir from University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (Pakistan), S. Soufizadeh from Shahid Beheshti University (Iran), and J. Lorgeou and J-C. Deswarte from ARVALIS—Institut du Végétal (France) for assistance with selecting key locations and quantifying regional crop cultivars, anthesis and maturity dates and R. Raymundo for assistance with GIS. S.A. and D.C. received financial support from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). C.S. was funded through USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture award 32011-68002-30191. C.M. received financial support from the KULUNDA project (01LL0905L) and the FACCE MACSUR project (031A103B) funded through the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). F.E. received support from the FACCE MACSUR project (031A103B) funded through the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (2812ERA115) and E.E.R. was funded through the German Science Foundation (project EW 119/5-1). M.J. and J.E.O. were funded through the FACCE MACSUR project by the Danish Strategic Research Council. K.C.K. and C.N. were funded by the FACCE MACSUR project through the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). F.T., T.P. and R.P.R. received financial support from FACCE MACSUR project funded through the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MMM); F.T. was also funded through National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41071030). C.B. was funded through the Helmholtz project ‘REKLIM—Regional Climate Change: Causes and Effects’ Topic 9: ‘Climate Change and Air Quality’. M.P.R. and P.D.A. received funding from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS). G.O’L. was funded through the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Victoria, Australia. R.C.I. was funded by Texas AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University. E.W. and Z.Z. were funded by CSIRO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) through the research project ‘Advancing crop yield while reducing the use of water and nitrogen’ and by the CSIRO-MoE PhD Research Program.

Author information

Author notes

    • D. Cammarano
    • , J. Anothai
    •  & G. De Sanctis

    Present addresses: James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, DD2 5DA, Scotland, UK. (D.C.); Department of Plant Science, Faculty of Natural Resources, Prince of Songkla University, Songkhla 90112, Thailand. (J.A.); European Commission Joint Research Center, via Enrico Fermi, 2749 Ispra, 21027, Italy. (G.D.S.)

Affiliations

  1. Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA

    • S. Asseng
    •  & D. Cammarano
  2. Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation INRES, University of Bonn, Bonn 53115, Germany

    • F. Ewert
    •  & E. Eyshi Rezaei
  3. INRA, UMR 1095 Génétique, Diversité and Ecophysiologie des Céréales (GDEC), F-63 100 Clermont-Ferrand, France

    • P. Martre
  4. Blaise Pascal University, UMR1095 GDEC, F-63 170 Aubière, France

    • P. Martre
  5. Plant Production Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, FI-50100 Mikkeli, Finland

    • R. P. Rötter
    • , T. Palosuo
    •  & F. Tao
  6. Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • D. B. Lobell
  7. Center on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • D. B. Lobell
  8. USDA, Agricultural Research Service, US Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center, Maricopa, Arizona 85138, USA

    • B. A. Kimball
    • , G. W. Wall
    •  & J. W. White
  9. The School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • M. J. Ottman
  10. CIMMYT Int. Adpo, D.F. Mexico 06600, Mexico

    • M. P. Reynolds
    •  & P. D. Alderman
  11. Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA

    • P. V. V. Prasad
  12. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, International Water Management Institute, New Delhi-110012, India

    • P. K. Aggarwal
  13. Biological Systems Engineering, Washington State University, Prosser, Washington 99350-8694, USA

    • J. Anothai
    •  & G. Hoogenboom
  14. Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan 48823, USA

    • B. Basso
    •  & I. Shcherbak
  15. W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan 48823, USA

    • B. Basso
    •  & I. Shcherbak
  16. Institute of Soil Ecology, Helmholtz Zentrum München—German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, D-85764, Germany

    • C. Biernath
    •  & E. Priesack
  17. Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

    • A. J. Challinor
    •  & A-K. Koehler
  18. CGIAR-ESSP Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), A.A. 6713, Cali, Colombia

    • A. J. Challinor
  19. INRA, US1116 AgroClim, F-84 914 Avignon, France

    • G. De Sanctis
  20. Cantabrian Agricultural Research and Training Centre (CIFA), 39600 Muriedas, Spain

    • J. Doltra
  21. IAS-CSIC and University of Cordoba, Apartado 3048, 14080 Cordoba, Spain

    • E. Fereres
    •  & M. Garcia-Vila
  22. WESS-Water & Earth System Science Competence Cluster, c/o University of Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

    • S. Gayler
  23. Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

    • L. A. Hunt
  24. Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park Maryland 20742, USA

    • R. C. Izaurralde
    •  & C. D. Jones
  25. Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Texas A&M University, Temple, Texas 76502, USA

    • R. C. Izaurralde
  26. Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, 8830 Tjele, Denmark

    • M. Jabloun
    •  & J. E. Olesen
  27. Institute of Landscape Systems Analysis, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany

    • K. C. Kersebaum
    •  & C. Nendel
  28. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

    • C. Müller
    •  & K. Waha
  29. Centre for Environment Science and Climate Resilient Agriculture, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, IARI PUSA, New Delhi 110 012, India

    • S. Naresh Kumar
  30. Landscape & Water Sciences, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Horsham, Victoria 3400, Australia

    • G. O’Leary
  31. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • A. C. Ruane
  32. Computational and Systems Biology Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts AL5 2JQ, UK

    • M. A. Semenov
    •  & P. Stratonovitch
  33. Biological Systems Engineering, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-6120, USA

    • C. Stöckle
  34. Institute of Soil Science and Land Evaluation, University of Hohenheim, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany

    • T. Streck
  35. Plant Production Systems & Earth System Science, Wageningen University, 6700AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

    • I. Supit
    •  & J. Wolf
  36. Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100101, China

    • F. Tao
  37. CSIRO Agriculture Flagship, Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Australia

    • P. J. Thorburn
  38. CSIRO Agriculture Flagship, Black Mountain, ACT 2601, Australia

    • E. Wang
    •  & Z. Zhao
  39. INRA, UMR 1248 Agrosystèmes et développement territorial (AGIR), 31326 Castanet-Tolosan Cedex, France

    • D. Wallach
  40. Department of Agronomy and Biotechnology, China Agricultural University, Yuanmingyuan West Road 2 Beijing 100193, China

    • Z. Zhao
  41. College of Agriculture, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210095, China

    • Y. Zhu

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Contributions

S.A., F.E., P.M., R.P.R. and D.B.L. motivated the study, S.A. and F.E. coordinated the study, S.A., F.E., P.M., D.C., D.W. and P.D.A. analysed data, D.C., J.W.W., P.K.A., J.A., B.B., C.B., A.J.C., G.D.S., J.D., E.F., M.G-V., S.G., G.H., L.A.H., R.C.I., M.J., C.D.J., K.C.K., A-K.K., C.M., S.N.K., C.N., G.O’L., J.E.O., T.P., E.P., E.E.R., M.A.S., I.Shcherbak, C.S., P.S., T.S., I.Supit, F.T., P.J.T., K.W., E.W., J.W., Z.Z. and Y.Z. carried out crop model simulations and discussed the results, B.A.K., M.J.O., G.W.W., J.W.W., M.P.R., P.D.A., P.V.V.P. and A.C.R. provided experimental data, S.A., F.E., P.M., R.P.R., D.B.L., B.A.K., A.J.C., J.W.W., M.P.R., C.M., A.C.R., M.A.S. and D.W. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. Asseng.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2470