Effect of climate change on spring wheat yields in North America and Eurasia in 1981- 2015 and implications for breeding
Wheat yield dynamic in Canada, USA, Russia and Kazakhstan from 1981 till 2015 was related to air temperature and precipitation during wheat season to evaluate the effects of climate change. The study used yield data from the provinces, states and regions and average yield from 19 spring wheat breeding/research sites. Both at production and research sites grain yield in Eurasia was two times lower compared to North America. The yearly variations in grain yield in North America and Eurasia did not correlate suggesting that higher yield in one region was normally associated with lower yield in another region. Minimum and maximum air temperature during the wheat growing season (April-August) had tendency to increase. While precipitation in April-August increased in North American sites from 289 mm in 1981–1990 to 338 mm in 2006–2015 it remained constant and low at Eurasian sites (230 and 238 mm, respectively). High temperature in June and July negatively affected grain yield in most of the sites at both continents. Climatic changes resulted in substantial changes in the dates of planting and harvesting normally leading to extension of growing season. Longer planting-harvesting period was positively associated with the grain yield for most of the locations. The climatic changes since 1981 and spring wheat responses suggest several implications for breeding. Gradual warming extends the wheat growing season and new varieties need to match this to utilize their potential. Higher rainfall during the wheat season, especially in North America, will require varieties with higher yield potential responding to moisture availability. June is a critical month for spring wheat in both regions due to the significant negative correlation of grain yield with maximum temperature and positive correlation with precipitation. Breeding for adaptation to higher temperatures during this period is an important strategy to increase yield.