Benefits of increasing transpiration efficiency in wheat under elevated CO2 for rainfed regions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Brendan Christy
  • Richard Richards
  • Greg Rebetzke
  • Anthony Condon
  • Terry McLean
  • Glenn Fitzgerald
  • Maryse Bourgault
  • Garry O'Leary

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Agriculture Victoria
  • School of Agriculture and Food
  • University of Melbourne
  • CSIrO
  • Montana State University Northern Agricultural Research Station


Higher transpiration efficiency (TE) has been proposed as a mechanism to increase crop yields in dry environments where water availability usually limits yield. The application of a coupled radiation and TE simulation model shows wheat yield advantage of a high-TE cultivar (cv. Drysdale) over its almost identical low-TE parent line (Hartog), from about −7 to 558 kg/ha (mean 187 kg/ha) over the rainfed cropping region in Australia (221–1,351 mm annual rainfall), under the present-day climate. The smallest absolute yield response occurred in the more extreme drier and wetter areas of the wheat belt. However, under elevated CO2 conditions, the response of Drysdale was much greater overall, ranging from 51 to 886 kg/ha (mean 284 kg/ha) with the greatest response in the higher rainfall areas. Changes in simulated TE under elevated CO2 conditions are seen across Australia with notable increased areas of higher TE under a drier climate in Western Australia, Queensland and parts of New South Wales and Victoria. This improved efficiency is subtly deceptive, with highest yields not necessarily directly correlated with highest TE. Nevertheless, the advantage of Drysdale over Hartog is clear with the benefit of the trait advantage attributed to TE ranging from 102% to 118% (mean 109%). The potential annual cost-benefits of this increased genetic TE trait across the wheat growing areas of Australia (5 year average of area planted to wheat) totaled AUD 631 MIL (5-year average wheat price of AUD/260 t) with an average of 187 kg/ha under the present climate. The benefit to an individual farmer will depend on location but elevated CO2 raises this nation-wide benefit to AUD 796 MIL in a 2°C warmer climate, slightly lower (AUD 715 MIL) if rainfall is also reduced by 20%.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1965-1977
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number5
Early online date20 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • climate change, vapor pressure deficit, water use efficiency