Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 39–48 | Cite as

Response of maize phenology to climate warming in Northeast China between 1990 and 2012

  • Zhengguo Li
  • Peng Yang
  • Huajun TangEmail author
  • Wenbin Wu
  • He Yin
  • Zhenhuan Liu
  • Li Zhang
Original Article


Investigating the temporal changes in crop phenology is essential for understanding crop response and adaption to climate change. Using observed climatic and maize phenological data from 53 agricultural meteorological stations in Northeast China between 1990 and 2012, this study analyzed the spatiotemporal changes in maize phenology, temperatures and their correlations in major maize-growing areas (latitudes 39–48°N) of Northeast China. During the investigation period, seedling and heading dates advanced significantly at 22 out of the 53 stations; maturity dates delayed significantly at 23 stations, and the growing period (GP, from seedling to maturity), the vegetative growing period (VGP, from seedling to heading) and the reproductive growing period (RGP, from heading to maturity) increased significantly at 30 % of the investigated stations. GP length was positively correlated with T mean at 40 stations and significantly at 10 stations (P < 0.01). Both negative and positive correlations were found between VGP and T mean, while RGP length was significantly and positively correlated with T mean. The results indicated that agronomic factors contribute substantially to the shift in maize phenology and that most farmers had adopted longer season cultivars because the increase in temperature provided better conditions for maize germination, emergence and grain filling. The findings on the various changes to maize phenology can help climate change impact studies and will enable regional maize production to cope with ongoing climate change.


Climate change Regional response Crop phenology Northeast China 



We are grateful for the financial support for our initial and ongoing research from the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (Grant No. 2010CB951502) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 40930101, 41171328, and 41201184).


  1. Adams RM, Rosenzweig C, Peart RM et al (1990) Global climate change and US agriculture. Nature 345:219–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aggarwal PK, Mall RK (2002) Climate change and rice yields in diverse agro-environments of India. II. Effect of uncertainties in scenarios and crop models on impact assessment. Clim Change 52:331–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chen C, Lei C, Deng A, Qian C, Hoogmoed W, Zhang W (2011) Will higher minimum temperatures increase corn production in Northeast China? An analysis of historical data over 1965–2008. Agric Forest Meteorol 151:1580–1588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen C, Qian C, Deng A, Zhang W (2012) Progressive and active adaptations of cropping system to climate change in Northeast China. Eur J Agron 38:94–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chmielewski F, Muller A, Bruns E (2004) Climate changes and trends in phenology of fruit trees and field crops in Germany, 1961–2000. Agric Forest Meteorol 121:69–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Craufurd PQ, Wheeler TR (2009) Climate change and the flowering time of annual crops. J Exp Bot 60:2529–2539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Vries ME, Leffelaar PA, Sakane N et al (2011) Adaptability of irrigated rice to temperature change in Sahelian environments. Exp Agric 47:69–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Estrella N, Sparks TH, Menzel A (2007) Trends and temperature response in the phenology of crops in Germany. Glob Change Biol 13:1737–1747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hu Q, Weiss A, Feng S, Baenziger PS (2005) Earlier winter wheat heading dates and warmer spring in the US Great Plains. Agric Forest Meteorol 135:284–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2007) In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, et al (Eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Jia J, Guo J (2010) Effects of climate changes on maize yield in Northeast China. Agric Sci Techol 11:169–174Google Scholar
  12. Jin Z, Zhu D (2008) Impacts of changes in climate and its variability on food production in Northeast China. Acta Agron Sin 34:1588–1597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jin Z, Ge D, Zheng X, Chen H (1996) Assessing the potential impacts of global climate change on maize production in China. Acta Agron Sin 22:513–524Google Scholar
  14. Jin ZQ, Ge DK, Shi C, Gao L (2002) Several strategies of food crop production in the Northeast China Plain for adaptation to global climate change. Acta Agron Sin 28:24–31Google Scholar
  15. Jørgen EO, Marco B (2002) Consequences of climate change for European agricultural productivity, land use and policy. Eur J Agron 16:239–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Li Z, Tang H, Yang P et al (2012) Spatio-temporal responses of cropland phenophases to climate change in Northeast China. J Geogr Sci 22:29–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Liu B, Xu M, Henderson M, Qi Y, Li Y (2004) Taking China’s temperature: daily range, warming trends, and regional variations, 1955–2000. J Clim 17:4453–4462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liu Z, Yang X, Wang W, Li K, Zhang X (2009) Characteristics of agricultural climate resources in three provinces of Northeast China under global climate change. Chin J Appl Ecol 20(9):2199–2206 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  19. Liu Z, Yang X, Hubbard KG, Lin X (2012) Maize potential yields and yield gaps in the changing climate of Northeast China. Glob Change Biol 18:3441–3454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu Z, Yang X, Chen F, Wang E (2013) The effects of past climate change on the northern limits of maize planting in Northeast China. Clim Change 117:891–902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lobell D, Burke M, Tebaldi C, Mastrandrea MD, Falcon WP, Naylor RL (2008) Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030. Science 319:607–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Matthews RB, Kropff MJ, Horie T et al (1997) Simulating the impact of climate change on rice production in Asia and evaluating options for adaptation. Agric Syst 54:399–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. NBSC (National Bureau of Statistics of China) (2010) Statistical yearbook of China 2010. China Statistical Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  24. Ogden E, Innes JL (2008) Climate change adaptation and regional forest planning in southern Yukon, Canada. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 13:833–861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Olesen JE, Bindi M (2002) Consequences of climate change for European agricultural productivity, land use and policy. Eur J Agron 16:239–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Porter JR, Delecolle R (1988) Interaction of temperature with other environmental variables in controlling the development of plants. Symp Soc Exp Biol 42:133–156Google Scholar
  27. Rosenzweig C, Hillel D (1998) Climate change and the global harvest: potential impacts of the greenhouse effect on agriculture. Oxford University Press, NY, United StatesGoogle Scholar
  28. Rosenzweig C, Parry ML (1994) Potential impact of climate change on world food supply. Nature 367:133–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sacks WJ, Kucharik CJ (2011) Crop management and phenology trends in the U.S. Corn Belt: impacts on yields, evapotranspiration and energy balance. Agric Forest Meteorol 151:882–894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Siebert S, Ewert F (2012) Spatio-temporal patterns of phenological development in Germany in relation to temperature and day length. Agric Forest Meteorol 152:44–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Susanna R, Barry S, Wayne C, Suzanne B (2007) Vulnerability and adaptation to climate risks in Ontario agriculture. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12:609–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tao F, Zhang Z (2010) Adaptation of maize production to climate change in North China Plain: quantify the relative contributions of adaptation options. Eur J Agron 33:103–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tao F, Zhang Z (2011) Impacts of climate change as a function of global mean temperature: maize productivity and water use in China. Clim Change 105:409–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tao F, Yokozawa M, Xu Y, Hayashi Y, Zhang Z (2006) Climate changes and trends in phenology and yields of field crops in China, 1981–2000. Agric Forest Meteorol 138:82–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tao F, Yokozawa M, Liu J, Zhang Z (2008a) Climate-crop yield relationships at provincial scales in China and the impacts of recent climate trends. Clim Res 38:83–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tao F, Hayashi Y, Zhang Z, Sakamoto T, Yokozawa M (2008b) Global warming, rice production and water use in China: developing a probabilistic assessment. Agric Forest Meteorol 148:94–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tao F, Zhang S, Zhang Z (2012) Spatiotemporal changes of wheat phenology in China under the effects of temperature, day length and cultivar thermal characteristics. Eur J Agron 43:201–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thornton P, Running S, White M (1997) Generating surfaces of daily meteorological variables over large regions of complex terrain. J Hydrol 190:214–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Winters P, Murgai R, Sadoulet E, De Janvry A, Frisvold G (1998) Economic and welfare impacts of climate change on developing countries. Environ Res Econ 12:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Xiong W, Conway D, Jiang J, Li Y, Lin E, Xu Y, Hui J, Calsamiglia-Mendlewicz S (2008) Future cereal production in China: modelling the interaction of climate change, water availability and socio-economic scenarios. The impacts of climate change on chinese agriculture—Phase II. Final Report, AEA Group, UKGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhang T, Huang Y, Yang X (2013) Climate warming over the past three decades has shortened rice growth duration in China and cultivar shifts have further accelerated the process for late rice. Glob Change Biol 19:563–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhengguo Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peng Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Huajun Tang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Wenbin Wu
    • 1
    • 2
  • He Yin
    • 3
  • Zhenhuan Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Li Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Agri-InformaticsMinistry of AgricultureBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional PlanningChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Geography DepartmentHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations