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Cetin, Kevser; Mauser, Wolfram (2023): The Role of Recent Climate Change in Explaining the Statistical Yield Increase of Maize in Northern Bavaria—A Model Study. Agriculture, 13 (7): 1370. ISSN 2077-0472

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Maize yields in many regions of the world have increased significantly since the 1960s. The increase is mainly attributed to technological improvements and climate change. On a regional scale and in recent decades, climate change has altered growth conditions of maize and this, in turn, has influenced changes in yield. In order to analyze the contribution of different factors to yield changes, and to obtain a model setup that could be used for further analyses of yield development, this study systematically investigated the effects of recent climate change, irrigation, cultivar selection and nutrient availability on historical yields in Northern Bavaria. Four sets of simulations were conducted with the mechanistic plant growth model PROMET, during the time period between 1997 and 2020, and the resulting yields were compared to county statistics. In addition, three scenarios were simulated in order to determine yield increase potentials for the highly mechanized agricultural region of Northern Bavaria. The results showed a good agreement with the observed yields (R2 = 0.76), when considering altered nutrient availability, suggesting that an increase in nutrient uptake by plants plays a key role in reproducing yield statistics and has a main contribution to the observed increasing yield trends. Moreover, other factors considered individually, such as recent climate change, irrigation and cultivar selection, could not explain the yield levels and trends shown by the statistics. The scenario simulations demonstrated potential increases in yield due to irrigation and cultivar adaptation. The yield response to irrigation shows a trend, with recent climate change progressing, of 0–5% when irrigating currently grown cultivars and 10–50% when irrigating an adapted cultivar; rainfed cultivar adaptation consistently increased the level of yields by approximately 10%. This study highlights the importance of a dynamic consideration of growth conditions in the course of climate change, rather than static assumptions of model parameters, and emphasizes the importance of the second-order effects of climate change.

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