CR 34:59-69 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/cr034059

Potential effects of changes in mean climate and climate variability on the yield of winter and spring crops in Switzerland

Daniele Simone Torriani1,2, Pierluigi Calanca1,*, Stéphanie Schmid1, Martin Beniston2, Jürg Fuhrer1

1Air Pollution/Climate Group, Agroscope Reckenholz-Taenikon, Research Station ART, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland
2Climate Research, University of Geneva, 7 Chemin de Drize, 1227 Carouge, Switzerland
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Climate change is expected to affect both the average level and the variability of crop yields. In this modelling study, we quantified mean and inter-annual variability of grain yield for maize Zea mays L., winter wheat Triticum spp. L. and winter canola Brassica napus L. for climatic conditions corresponding to current and doubled atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Climate scenarios with and without taking into account changes in the inter-annual variability of climate were developed from the output of a regional climate model for the time window 2071 to 2100. Climate change effects on the mean yield of maize and canola were consistently negative, but a positive impact was simulated for mean yield of winter wheat for elevated CO2 concentration. The coefficient of yield variation increased in the scenarios for maize and canola, but decreased for wheat. Higher thermal time requirements increased mean yield and reduced yield variability for all crops. Shifts in the sowing dates had a beneficial impact on the yield of maize, but not on the yield of canola and wheat. It is concluded that in the Alpine region, the potential effect of climate change is crop-specific. However, the introduction of new cultivars may provide means by which to maintain or even increase current productivity levels for most of the crops.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Climate scenario · Inter-annual variability · Crop yield · Maize · Winter wheat · Winter canola

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