Heat stress may cause a significant reduction of rice yield in China under future climate scenarios

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Nov 19;151746. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151746. Online ahead of print.


Extreme heat events have become more frequent and severe under climate change and seriously threaten rice growth. Most existing crop models tend to underestimate the impacts of heat stress on rice yields. Heat stress modules in crop models have not been extensively explored, particularly on a large scale. This study modeled rice growth under heat stress at the flowering and filling stages through two heat stress models which coupled into the CERES-Rice model. We evaluated the advanced model with provincial statistics and Gridded Observed Rice Yield. Our improved CERES-Rice model produced more accurate estimates on rice yield than the original model evidenced by an increased correlation coefficient (R) of 12.72% and d-index of 0.02%. The RMSE and MAE decreased by 5.94% and 6.01%, respectively. Most pseudo positive correlations between rice yield and the number of heat days were corrected to the negative ones by the improved model. The future projections from the improved model signifies multi-model ensemble yield projection without CO2 effect (MME-I-NOCO2) has an apparent fall from 2020 to 2099 under RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 with the decreasing percentages of 6%, 14%, and 37%, respectively, whereas the decreasing trend (12%) only occurs under RCP8.5 with CO2 effect (MME-I-CO2). The apparently decreasing trends of yield projection from MME-I-NOCO2 will occur in most rice-planted regions of China with the decreasing rate < 50 kg/ha/a especially in the central-south and southern cropping regions, and this decreasing trend will be slowed down for MME-I-CO2. Relative to rice yield of historical period, rice yield variations of MME-I-NOCO2 for different growing seasons show a downward trend with the decrease of approximately 54%, 60%, and 43%, respectively. Our study highlights the importance of modeling crop yields under heat stress to food security, agricultural adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

Keywords: CERES-Rice model; CO(2) effect; Climate change; Heat stress; Rice yield.