Soil Processes and Wheat Cropping Under Emerging Climate Change Scenarios in South Asia
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Wheat is one of the most important staple foods as it provides 55% of the carbohydrates and 20% of the food calories and protein consumed worldwide. Demand for wheat is projected to continue to grow over the coming decades, particularly in the developing world, to feed an increasing population. More than 22% of global area under wheat is located in South Asia which is home to about 25% of the world's population. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected that in the 21st century South Asia is going to be hit hard by climate change. Changes in mean annual temperature will exceed 2 degrees C above the late-20th-century baseline and there can be declines in the absolute amount of precipitation during December to February, when wheat is grown in the region. Temperature, precipitation, and enhanced CO2 level in the atmosphere, the three climate change drivers can affect wheat cropping both directly at plant level and indirectly through changes in properties and processes in the soil, shifts in nutrient cycling, insect pest occurrence, and plant diseases. Studies pertaining to the effects of climate change on soil processes and properties are now becoming available and it is becoming increasingly clear that climate change will impact soil organic matter dynamics, including soil organisms and the multiple soil properties that are tied to organic matter, soil water, and soil erosion. Warmer conditions will stimulate soil N availability through higher rates of mineralization so that fertilizer management in wheat is also going to be governed by emerging climate change scenarios. Similarly, higher temperatures and altered precipitation regimes will determine the net irrigation water requirements of wheat. Several simulation models have projected reduced wheat yields in the emerging climate change scenarios, but occurrence of an extreme heat event around senescence can lead to crop models to underestimate the effects of heat on senescence by as much as 50% for late sowing dates for 2 degrees C rise in mean temperature. So as to project productivity of wheat in South Asia in the emerging climate change scenarios with increased certainty, integrated holistic modeling studies will be needed which also take into account effect of extreme heat events as well as the contribution of altered soil processes and properties.
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