The expected effects of climate change on wheat development


Dr. F Miglietta, e-mail migliet@it.cnr.iata


Air temperature and the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are expected to rise. These two factor have a great potential to affect development, growth and yield of crops, including wheat. Rising air temperature may affect wheat development more than rising atmospheric CO2 as there is not yet evidence that elevated CO2 concentrations can directly induce changes in wheat development. In winter wheat, temperature has a complex effect on development due to its strong interaction with vernalization and photoperiod. In this paper, potential effects of rising temperature on the development of winter wheat from sowing to heading are considered in the light of this complex controlling mechanism. Data from a large series of field trials made in Romania is analysed at first and, subsequently, the IATA-Wheat Phenology model is used to calculate the impact of air warming on wheat development under different climate change scenarios. Data from the field trials showed very clearly the occurrence of a complex temperature/photoperiod/vernalization interaction for field sown crops and demostrated that the photoperiodic and vernalization responses have a key role in controlling the duration of the emergence-heading period. Temperature plays, instead, a central role in controlling seed germination and crop emergence as well as leaf inititiation and leaf appearance rate. The results of model analysis showed very well that the impact of an even or uneven distribution of warning effects may be very different. In the first case, the model predicted that the duration of the vegetative period was at least partly reduced in some years. In the second case, the model suggested that if warming will be more pronounced in winter than in spring, as predicted for some areas of the world by General Circulation Models, we may expect an increase in the duration of the vegetative phase of growth. On the contrary, in case of a spring warming but unchanged winter temperatures, we may expect a substantial decrease in the duration of the vegetative period.