Future climate impact on the productivity of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) in Europe

PD Jones, DH Lister, KW Jaggard, JD Pidgeon

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The impact of future climate change on sugar beet yields is assessed over western Europe using future (2021-2050) climate scenario data from a General Circulation Model (GCM) and the Broom's Barn simulation model of rain-fed crop growth and yield. GCM output for the 1961-1990 period is first compared with observed climate data and shown to be reliable for regions west of 24°E. Comparisons east of this meridian were less reliable with this GCM (HadCM2) and so were omitted from simulations of crop yield. Climate change is expected to bring yield increases of around 1 t/ha of sugar in northern Europe with decreases of a similar magnitude in northern France, Belgium and west/central Poland, for the period 2021-2050. Averaged for the study area (weighted by current regional production), yields show no overall change due to changed climate. However, this figure masks significant increases in yield potential (due to accelerated growth in warmer springs) and in losses due to drought stress. Drought losses are predicted to approximately double in areas with an existing problem and to become a serious new problem in NE France and Belgium. Overall west and central Europe simulated average drought losses rise from 7% (1961-1990) to 18% (2021-2050). The annual variability of yield (as measured by the coefficient of variation) will increase by half, from 10% to 15% compared to 1961-1990, again with potentially serious consequences for the sugar industry. The importance of crop breeding for drought tolerance is further emphasised. These changes are independent of the 9% yield increase which we estimate, on the basis of work by Demmers-Derks et al. (1998), is the likely direct effect of the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration by 2021-2050.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1/2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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