Vulnerability of field crops to midcentury temperature changes and yield effects in the Southwestern USA

TitleVulnerability of field crops to midcentury temperature changes and yield effects in the Southwestern USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsElias E, Marklein A, Abatzoglou JT, Dialesandro J, Brown J, Steele C, Rango A, Steenwerth KL
JournalJournal of Climate Change
Start Page403
Date Published06/2018
ARIS Log Number343139

Increased temperatures in the Southwestern USA will impact future crop production via multiple pathways. We used four methods to provide an illustrative analysis of midcentury temperature impacts to eight field crops. By midcentury, cropland area thermally suitable for maize cultivation is projected to decrease, while area suitable for cotton cultivation expands northward and nearly doubles in extent. The increase in area exposed to daily temperatures > 35 °C was highest for oat and maize. Estimates of yield reduction from heat stress for both maize and cotton indicate that historically, SW heat stress reduced cotton yield by 26% and maize yield by 18% compared to potential yield. By midcentury, we predict yield reduction from heat stress will reduce cotton and maize yields by 37 and 27%, respectively, compared to potential yield. Our results contradict the notion that the warmest counties cultivating field crops will be the most impacted. Rather, future temperature, total crop area and crop sensitivity contribute to more complex county-level impacts. Identification of representative target environments under future temperature regimes can inform development of farm-based networks to evaluate new crop germplasm with increased heat tolerance and viable adaptation and management strategies to respond effectively to future temperatures.