Global response patterns of major rainfed crops to adaptation by maintaining current growing periods and irrigation

Sara Minoli, Christoph Mueller, Joshua Elliott, Alex C. Ruane, Jonas Jägermeyr, Florian Zabel, Marie Dury, Christian Folberth, Louis François, Tobias Hank, Ingrid Jacquemin, Wenfeng Liu, Stefan Olin, Thomas Pugh

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11 Citations (Scopus)
176 Downloads (Pure)


Increasing temperature trends are expected to impact yields of major field crops by affecting various plant processes, such as phenology, growth, and evapotranspiration. However, future projections typically do not consider the effects of agronomic adaptation in farming practices. We use an ensemble of seven Global Gridded Crop Models to quantify the impacts and adaptation potential of field crops under increasing temperature up to 6 K, accounting for model uncertainty. We find that without adaptation, the dominant effect of temperature increase is to shorten the growing period and to reduce grain yields and production. We then test the potential of two agronomic measures to combat warming‐induced yield reduction: (i) use of cultivars with adjusted phenology to regain the reference growing period duration and (ii) conversion of rainfed systems to irrigated ones in order to alleviate the negative temperature effects that are mediated by crop evapotranspiration. We find that cultivar adaptation can fully compensate global production losses up to 2 K of temperature increase, with larger potentials in continental and temperate regions. Irrigation could also compensate production losses, but its potential is highest in arid regions, where irrigation expansion would be constrained by water scarcity. Moreover, we discuss that irrigation is not a true adaptation measure but rather an intensification strategy, as it equally increases production under any temperature level. In the tropics, even when introducing both adapted cultivars and irrigation, crop production declines already at moderate warming, making adaptation particularly challenging in these areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1464-1480
Number of pages17
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
Early online date30 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • temperature increase
  • crop yield
  • adaptation
  • growing period
  • irrigation
  • crop model


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