How early can the seeding dates of spring wheat be under current and future climate in Saskatchewan, Canada?

Yong He, Hong Wang, Budong Qian, Brian McConkey, Ron DePauw
PloS One 2012, 7 (10): e45153

BACKGROUND: Shorter growing season and water stress near wheat maturity are the main factors that presumably limit the yield potential of spring wheat due to late seeding in Saskatchewan, Canada. Advancing seeding dates can be a strategy to help producers mitigate the impact of climate change on spring wheat. It is unknown, however, how early farmers can seed while minimizing the risk of spring frost damage and the soil and machinery constraints.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: This paper explores early seeding dates of spring wheat on the Canadian Prairies under current and projected future climate. To achieve this, (i) weather records from 1961 to 1990 were gathered at three sites with different soil and climate conditions in Saskatchewan, Canada; (ii) four climate databases that included a baseline (treated as historic weather climate during the period of 1961-1990) and three climate change scenarios (2040-2069) developed by the Canadian global climate model (GCM) with the forcing of three greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenarios (A2, A1B and B1); (iii) seeding dates of spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under baseline and projected future climate were predicted. Compared with the historical record of seeding dates, the predicted seeding dates were advanced under baseline climate for all sites using our seeding date model. Driven by the predicted temperature increase of the scenarios compared with baseline climate, all climate change scenarios projected significantly earlier seeding dates than those currently used. Compared to the baseline conditions, there is no reduction in grain yield because precipitation increases during sensitive growth stages of wheat, suggesting that there is potential to shift seeding to an earlier date. The average advancement of seeding dates varied among sites and chosen scenarios. The Swift Current (south-west) site has the highest potential for earlier seeding (7 to 11 days) whereas such advancement was small in the Melfort (north-east, 2 to 4 days) region.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The extent of projected climate change in Saskatchewan indicates that growers in this region have the potential of earlier seeding. The results obtained in this study may be used for adaptation assessments of seeding dates under possible climate change to mitigate the impact of potential warming.

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