One of the main problems in estimating the effects of climate change on crops is the identification of those factors limiting crop growth in a selected environment. Previous studies have indicated that considering simple trends of either precipitation or temperature for the coming decades is insufficient for estimating the climate impact on yield in the future. One reason for this insufficiency is that changes in weather extremes or seasonal weather patterns may have marked impacts.
The present study focuses on identifying agroclimatic parameters that can identify the effects of climate change and variability on winter wheat yield change in the Pannonian lowland. The impacts of soil type under past and future climates as well as the effect of different CO2 concentrations on yield formation are also considered. The Vojvodina region was chosen for this case study because it is a representative part of the Pannonian lowland.
Projections of the future climate were taken from the HadCM3, ECHAM5 and NCAR-PCM climate models with the SRES-A2 scenario for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the 2040 and 2080 integration periods. To calibrate and validate the Met&Roll weather generator, four-variable weather data series (for six main climatic stations in the Vojvodina region) were analysed. The grain yield of winter wheat was calculated using the SIRIUS wheat model for three different CO2 concentrations (330, 550 and 1050 ppm) dependent on the integration period. To estimate the effects of climatic parameters on crop yield, the correlation coefficient between crop yield and agroclimatic indices was calculated using the AGRICLIM software. The present study shows that for all soil types, the following indices are the most important for winter wheat yields in this region: (i) the number of days with water and temperature stress, (ii) the accumulated precipitation, (iii) the actual evapotranspiration (ETa) and (iv) the water deficit during the growing season. The high positive correlations between yield and the ETa, accumulated precipitation and the ratio between the ETa and reference evapotranspiration (ETr) for the April–June period indicate that water is and will remain a major limiting factor for growing winter wheat in this region. Indices referring to negative impact on yield are (i) the number of days with a water deficit for the April–June period and (ii) the number of days with maximum temperature above 25 °C (summer days) and the number of days with maximum temperature above 30 °C (tropical days) in May and June. These indices can be seen as indicators of extreme weather events such as drought and heat waves.