Climatic Change

, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 445–472 | Cite as

Climate change impacts on dryland cropping systems in the Central Great Plains, USA

  • Jonghan Ko
  • Lajpat R. AhujaEmail author
  • S. A. Saseendran
  • Timothy R. Green
  • Liwang Ma
  • David C. Nielsen
  • Charles L. Walthall


Agricultural systems models are essential tools to assess potential climate change (CC) impacts on crop production and help guide policy decisions. In this study, impacts of projected CC on dryland crop rotations of wheat-fallow (WF), wheat-corn-fallow (WCF), and wheat-corn-millet (WCM) in the U.S. Central Great Plains (Akron, Colorado) were simulated using the CERES V4.0 crop modules in RZWQM2. The CC scenarios for CO2, temperature and precipitation were based on a synthesis of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007) projections for Colorado. The CC for years 2025, 2050, 2075, and 2100 (CC projection years) were super-imposed on measured baseline climate data for 15–17 years collected during the long-term WF and WCF (1992–2008), and WCM (1994–2008) experiments at the location to provide inter-annual variability. For all the CC projection years, a decline in simulated wheat yield and an increase in actual transpiration were observed, but compared to the baseline these changes were not significant (p > 0.05) in all cases but one. However, corn and proso millet yields in all rotations and projection years declined significantly (p < 0.05), which resulted in decreased transpiration. Overall, the projected negative effects of rising temperatures on crop production dominated over any positive impacts of atmospheric CO2 increases in these dryland cropping systems. Simulated adaptation via changes in planting dates did not mitigate the yield losses of the crops significantly. However, the no-tillage maintained higher wheat yields than the conventional tillage in the WF rotation to year 2075. Possible effects of historical CO2 increases during the past century (from 300 to 380 ppm) on crop yields were also simulated using 96 years of measured climate data (1912–2008) at the location. On average the CO2 increase enhanced wheat yields by about 30%, and millet yields by about 17%, with no significant changes in corn yields.


Climate Change Scenario Wheat Yield Conventional Tillage Corn Yield Actual Transpiration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



conventional tillage


decision support system for agrotechnology transfer


model efficiency


free air CO2 enrichment


General Circulation Model


green house gas




Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emission special emission scenarios


intergovernmental panel on climate change


leaf area index






root mean square difference


root zone water quality model


standard deviation








water use efficiency


Sulphur hexafluoride


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Copyright information

© U.S. Government 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonghan Ko
    • 1
  • Lajpat R. Ahuja
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. A. Saseendran
    • 1
  • Timothy R. Green
    • 1
  • Liwang Ma
    • 1
  • David C. Nielsen
    • 2
  • Charles L. Walthall
    • 3
  1. 1.USDA-ARS Agricultural Systems Research UnitFt. CollinsUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS Central Great Plains Research StationAkronUSA
  3. 3.USDA-ARS, Office of National ProgramsBeltsvilleUSA

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