Impacts of Climate Variability and Adaptation Strategies on Crop Yields and Soil Organic Carbon in the U.S. Midwest
Climate change is likely to increase the frequency of drought and more extreme precipitation events. The objectives of this study were i) to assess the impact of extended drought followed by heavy precipitation events on yield and soil organic carbon (SOC) under historical and future climate, and ii) to evaluate the effectiveness of climate adaptation strategies (no-tillage and new cultivars) in mitigating impacts of increased frequencies of extreme events and warming. We used the validated SALUS crop model to simulate long-term maize and wheat yield and SOC changes of maize-soybean-wheat rotation cropping systems in the northern Midwest USA under conventional tillage and no-till for three climate change scenarios (one historical and two projected climates under the Representative Concentration Path (RCP) 4.5 and RCP6) and two precipitation changes (extreme precipitation occurring early or late season). Extended drought events caused additional yield reduction when they occurred later in the season (10–22% for maize and 5–13% for wheat) rather than in early season (5–17% for maize and 2–18% for wheat). We found maize grain yield declined under the projected climates, whereas wheat grain yield increased. No-tillage is able to reduce yield loss compared to conventional tillage and increased SOC levels (1.4–2.0 t/ha under the three climates), but could not reverse the adverse impact of climate change, unless early and new improved maize cultivars are introduced to increase yield and SOC under climate change. This study demonstrated the need to consider extreme weather events, particularly drought and extreme precipitation events, in climate impact assessment on crop yield and adaptation through no-tillage and new genetics reduces yield losses.