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Maize yields over Europe may increase in spite of climate change, with an appropriate use of the genetic variability of flowering time

Abstract : Projections based on invariant genotypes and agronomic practices indicate that climate change will largely decrease crop yields. The comparatively few studies considering farmers’ adaptation result in a diversity of impacts depending on their assumptions. We combined experiments and process-based modeling for analyzing the consequences of climate change on European maize yields if farmers made the best use of the current genetic variability of cycle duration, based on practices they currently use. We first showed that the genetic variability of maize flowering time is sufficient for identifying a cycle duration that maximizes yield in a range of European climatic conditions. This was observed in six field experiments with a panel of 121 accessions and extended to 59 European sites over 36 years with a crop model. The assumption that farmers use optimal cycle duration and sowing date was supported by comparison with historical data. Simulations were then carried out for 2050 with 3 million combinations of crop cycle durations, climate scenarios, management practices, and modeling hypotheses. Simulated grain production over Europe in 2050 was stable (−1 to +1%) compared with the 1975–2010 baseline period under the hypotheses of unchanged cycle duration, whereas it was increased (+4–7%) when crop cycle duration and sowing dates were optimized in each local environment. The combined effects of climate change and farmer adaptation reduced the yield gradient between south and north of Europe and increased European maize production if farmers continued to make the best use of the genetic variability of crop cycle duration.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - 9:37:18 AM
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Boris Parent, Margot Leclere, Sébastien Lacube, Mikhail A. Semenov, Claude Welcker, et al.. Maize yields over Europe may increase in spite of climate change, with an appropriate use of the genetic variability of flowering time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , National Academy of Sciences, 2018, 115 (42), pp.10642-10647. ⟨10.1073/pnas.1720716115⟩. ⟨hal-02623810⟩



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