Water footprint of winter wheat under climate change: Trends and uncertainties associated to the ensemble of crop models

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Mar 25;658:1186-1208. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.279. Epub 2018 Dec 20.


The impact of climate change could undermine the future grain production as a consequence of increased temperature and drought condition or improve the crop performance owing to the increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Wheat water demand and yield are strictly related to climate conditions of the area where the plants are cropped. In this study, we assessed the future trends of grain yield and water consumption in two European regions, Germany (Continental region) and Italy (Mediterranean region) in the light of the multiple sources of uncertainty related to climate and yield forecasts. Four crop models were set up under combinations of two European climate regions, five Global Circulation Models and two Representative CO2 Concentration Pathways, 486 ppm and 540 ppm in 2050. Yield and water use were assessed under rainfed and irrigated regimes, and the water footprint of green water and total water was estimated. Our results indicated that projected yields were comparable (Mediterranean area) or even improved (+9%; Continental area) in rainfed conditions in comparison to the current trend; and water supply enhanced crop performance (+22% in Germany and +19% in Italy, as mean). Crop water consumption (both green and blue) remained stable in future projections but the water footprint was 5% lower on average in Italy and 23% in Germany when compared to the baseline. Despite the uncertainty in future predictions related to the factors analysed, our result indicated that current wheat production and its water footprint could become more favourable under climate change.

Keywords: Blue water; Climate change; Crop yield forecasting; Green water; Water use.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Droughts
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Models, Biological
  • Triticum / growth & development*
  • Triticum / metabolism*
  • Uncertainty
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Water