Quantifying the risks of winter damage on overwintering crops under future climates: Will low-temperature damage be more likely in warmer climates?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Giulia Vico and Martin Weih, SLU Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden
Autumn-sown crops act as winter cover crop, reducing soil erosion and nutrient leaching, while potentially providing higher yields than spring varieties in many environments. Nevertheless, overwintering crops are exposed for longer periods to the vagaries of weather conditions. Adverse winter conditions, in particular, may negatively affect the final yield, by reducing crop survival or its vigor. The net effect of the projected shifts in climate is unclear. On the one hand, warmer temperatures may reduce the frequency of low temperatures, thereby reducing damage risk. On the other hand, warmer temperatures, by reducing plant acclimation level and the amount and duration of snow cover, may increase the likelihood of damage. Thus, warmer climates may paradoxically result in more extensive low temperature damage and reduced viability for overwintering plants. The net effect of a shift in climate is explored by means of a parsimonious probabilistic model, based on a coupled description of air temperature, snow cover, and crop tolerable temperature. Exploiting an extensive dataset of winter wheat responses to low temperature exposure, the risk of winter damage occurrence is quantified under conditions typical of northern temperate latitudes. The full spectrum of variations expected with climate change is explored, quantifying the joint effects of alterations in temperature averages and their variability as well as shifts in precipitation. The key features affecting winter wheat vulnerability to low temperature damage under future climates are singled out.