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Predicting Climate Change Impacts on Sugarcane Production at Sites in Australia, Brazil and South Africa Using the Canegro Model

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Reliable predictions of sugarcane response to climate change are necessary to plan adaptation strategies. The objective of this study was to assess the use of global climate models (GCMs) and a crop simulation model for predicting climate change impacts on sugarcane production. The Canegro model was used to simulate growth and development of sugarcane crops under typical management conditions at three sites (irrigated crops at Ayr, Australia; rainfed crops at Piracicaba, Brazil and La Mercy, South Africa) for current and three future climate scenarios. The baseline scenario consisted of a 30-year time series of historical weather records and atmospheric CO2 concentration ([CO2]) set at 360 ppm. Future climate scenarios were derived from three GCMs and [CO2] set at 734 ppm. Future cane yields are expected to increase at all three sites, ranging from +4 % for Ayr, to +9 and +20 % for Piracicaba and La Mercy. Canopy development was accelerated at all three sites by increased temperature, which led to increased interception of radiation, increased transpiration, and slight increases in drought stress at rainfed sites. For the high potential sites (Ayr and Piracicaba), yield increases were limited by large increases in maintenance respiration which consumed most of the daily assimilate when high biomass was achieved. A weakness of the climate data used was the assumption of no change in rainfall distribution, solar radiation and relative humidity. Crop model aspects that need refinement include improved simulation of (1) elevated [CO2] effects on crop photosynthesis and transpiration, and (2) high temperature effects on crop development, photosynthesis and respiration.

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This work was conducted under the auspices of AgMIP, with support from SASRI, CSIRO and Embrapa. The authors thank Jody Biggs of CSIRO for assistance in preparing data for Ayr. We acknowledge the global climate modelling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM), for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.

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Correspondence to Abraham Singels.

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Singels, A., Jones, M., Marin, F. et al. Predicting Climate Change Impacts on Sugarcane Production at Sites in Australia, Brazil and South Africa Using the Canegro Model. Sugar Tech 16, 347–355 (2014).

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