Slight climate change can reduce drought effect in wheat, study finds

Feb 22, 2013

(Phys.org)—Increased carbon dioxide levels caused by climate change may help wheat cope with drought, according to researchers at The University of Western Australia. 

In a world-first study, PhD student Eduardo Dias de Oliveira found that when wheat is exposed to more CO2, it is better able to cope with and water restrictions. 

As long as the temperature does not rise 2ºC more than average, combining the effects of elevated carbon dioxide and high temperature with water restrictions actually improves biomass and grain yield.

Mr Dias de Oliveira's finding could have significant impact on the future of in the Mediterranean-type climatic wheat-growing regions of Australia, where is expected to have a severe impact on annual yields of 20 million tonnes of wheat over the next 50 years.

Mr Dias de Oliveira compared three scenarios in specially designed tunnel houses at UWA's Shenton Park Research Station with and without drought and elevated CO2 conditions at 2ºC, 4ºC and 6ºC above ambient temperature.

Two bread-wheat genotypes, the vigorous line 38-19 and the non-vigorous cultivar Janz, were grown in the tunnel houses.  Janz is a high yielding semi-dwarf cultivar widely adapted in Australia.

The scientists expected to find that higher CO2 and temperatures could compensate for the negative effect of end-of-season on biomass and grain yield in wheat through an increase in the rate of leaf photosynthesis and biomass. 

Research co-author Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique said what they found was that while at 2ºC above ambient temperature, yields were indeed enhanced regardless of whether they were well-watered or not, the combination of elevated CO2 at 4ºC or 6ºC above the ambient temperature tended to decrease wheat biomass and grain yield.

"Our studies unravelled the impact of interaction between elevated CO2, high temperature and in wheat. The vital information generated from the project will help towards developing climate ready wheat for the future," Professor Siddique said.  The PhD project is supported by UWA, CSIRO and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Explore further: Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

More information: The paper: "Can elevated CO2 combined with high temperature ameliorate the effect of terminal drought in wheat?" has been published in the journal Functioning Plant Biology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving wheat yields for global food security

Jul 25, 2011

With the world’s population set to reach 8.9 billion by 2050, CSIRO scientists are hunting down and exploiting a number of wheat’s key genetic traits in a bid to substantially boost its grain yield.

Crop root study to boost Australian grain production

May 09, 2012

Researchers at The University of Western Australia say that "next frontier" of agricultural science is understanding the root system and function of crop plants to significantly increase Australian grain production, ...

Recommended for you

Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —An invasive weed poses a serious and frightening threat to farming families in Ethiopia, but scientists from a Virginia Tech-led program have unleashed a new weapon in the fight against hunger: ...

New tool to assess noise impact on marine mammals

Aug 22, 2014

A new desktop tool which will allow offshore renewable energy developers to assess the likely impacts of their projects on marine mammal populations has been developed by scientists at the University of St ...

Of bees, mites, and viruses

Aug 21, 2014

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

User comments : 0