Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

‘Haying-off’ in wheat is predicted to increase under a future climate in south-eastern Australia

J. G. Nuttall A E , G. J. O’Leary A , N. Khimashia B , S. Asseng C , G. Fitzgerald A and R. Norton D

A Department of Primary Industries, PB 260, Horsham, Vic. 3401, Australia.

B CSIRO Plant Industry, PB 5 Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

C University of Florida, PO 110570, Gainesville, FL 32611-0570, USA.

D International Plant Nutrition Institute, 54 Florence St, Horsham, Vic. 3400, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: James.Nuttall@dpi.vic.gov.au

Crop and Pasture Science 63(7) 593-605 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/CP12062
Submitted: 17 February 2012  Accepted: 31 August 2012   Published: 15 October 2012

Abstract

Under a future climate for south-eastern Australia there is the likelihood that the net effect of elevated CO2, (eCO2) lower growing-season rainfall and high temperature will increase haying-off thus limit production of rain-fed wheat crops. We used a modelling approach to assess the impact of an expected future climate on wheat growth across four cropping regions in Victoria. A wheat model, APSIM-Nwheat, was performance tested against three datasets: (i) a field experiment at Wagga Wagga, NSW; (ii) the Australian Grains Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (AGFACE) experiment at Horsham, Victoria; and (iii) a broad-acre wheat crop survey in western Victoria. For down-scaled climate predictions for 2050, average rainfall during October, which coincides with crop flowering, decreased by 32, 29, 26, and 18% for the semiarid regions of the northern Mallee, the southern Mallee, Wimmera, and higher rainfall zone, (HRZ) in the Western District, respectively. Mean annual minimum and maximum temperature over the four regions increased by 1.9 and 2.2°C, respectively. A pair-wise comparison of the yield/anthesis biomass ratio across climate scenarios, used for assessing haying-off response, revealed that there was a 39, 49 and 47% increase in frequency of haying-off for the northern Mallee, southern Mallee and Wimmera, respectively, when crops were sown near the historically optimal time (1 June). This translated to a reduction in yield from 1.6 to 1.4 t/ha (northern Mallee), 2.5 to 2.2 t/ha (southern Mallee) and 3.7 to 3.6 t/ha (Wimmera) under a future climate. Sowing earlier (1 May) reduced the impact of a future climate on haying-off where decreases in yield/anthesis biomass ratio were 24, 28 and 23% for the respective regions. Heavy textured soils exacerbated the impact of a future climate on haying-off within the Wimmera. Within the HRZ of the Western District crops were not water limited during grain filling, so no evidence of haying-off existed where average crop yields increased by 5% under a future climate (6.4–6.7 t/ha). The simulated effect of eCO2 alone (FACE conditions) increased average yields from 18 to 38% for the semiarid regions but not in the HRZ and there was no evidence of haying-off. For a future climate, sowing earlier limited the impact of hotter, drier conditions by reducing pre-anthesis plant growth, grain set and resource depletion and shifted the grain-filling phase earlier, which reduced the impact of future drier conditions in spring. Overall, earlier sowing in a Mediterranean-type environment appears to be an important management strategy for maintaining wheat production in semiarid cropping regions into the future, although this has to be balanced with other agronomic considerations such as frost risk and weed control.


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