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Rising temperatures and increasing demand challenge wheat supply in Sudan

Abstract

Climate warming poses challenges for food production at low latitudes, particularly in arid regions. Sudan, where wheat demand could triple by 2050, has the world’s hottest wheat-growing environments, and observed yield declines in hot seasons are prompting the national government to prepare for a warming of 1.5–4.2 °C. Using advanced crop modelling under different climate and socioeconomic scenarios, we show that despite the use of adjusted sowing dates and existing heat-tolerant varieties, by 2050, Sudan’s domestic production share may decrease from 16.0% to 4.5–12.2%. In the relatively cool northern region, yields will need to increase by 3.1–4.7% per year, at non-compounding rates, to meet demand. In the hot central and eastern regions, improvements in heat tolerance are essential, and yields must increase by 0.2–2.7% per year to keep pace with climate warming. These results indicate the potential contribution of climate change adaptation measures and provide targets for addressing the wheat supply challenge.

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Fig. 1: Wheat-producing regions.
Fig. 2: Observed and modelled wheat responses to temperature for two varieties at the Gezira Research Station in Wad Medani.
Fig. 3: Observed and modelled average wheat yields in the three regions from 1970/1971 to 2016/2017.
Fig. 4: Relationship between the wheat harvested area and the relative error in the modelled yield from the historical run.
Fig. 5: Relationships between sowing date, temperature and yield across wheat-producing regions under the +4.2 °C scenario in 2050 (r85gH).
Fig. 6: Historical and projected annual socioeconomic indicators in Sudan.
Fig. 7: Current and projected domestic wheat production shares for Sudan in 2050.

Data availability

All data supporting the simulation and analysis in this study are publicly available from open sources. The historical and future climate scenarios are available at https://doi.org/10.20783/DIAS.524. The counterfactual climate scenarios are available at https://doi.org/10.20783/DIAS.544. The spatial harvest area data are available at http://www.earthstat.org/harvested-area-yield-175-crops. All other data, including simulation outputs (maturity date and yield) and the processed data used in plotting the figures, are available from the corresponding author upon request.

Code availability

All figures presented here are produced using a purpose-build script for the Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) version 4.5.18. The script runs on the MacOS platform but is potentially applicable to other platforms (for example, Windows and Linux). The script is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

T.I. thanks K. Abe for his support in earlier analysis. This study was funded by the Joint Research Program of Arid Land Research Center, Tottori University (No. 30F2001 to T.I.) and JST SATREPS (JPMJSA1805 to H.T.).

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Authors

Contributions

T.I. and W.K. conceived this study. I.-E.A.A.-B., I.S.A.T., Y.S.A.G. and A.A.M.I. conducted the field experiments. M.T., Y.K. and H.T. helped modify crop models. T.I. drafted the paper and all contributed to the writing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Toshichika Iizumi.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks Michael Baum, Kindie Tesfaye and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Discussion, References, Figs. 1–7 and Tables 1–4.

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Iizumi, T., Ali-Babiker, IE.A., Tsubo, M. et al. Rising temperatures and increasing demand challenge wheat supply in Sudan. Nat Food 2, 19–27 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-00214-4

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