The main objective of the present crop simulation study was to determine the impact of climate change on the winter wheat production of a dry area situated in north-east Austria (Marchfeld region) based on the CERES-Wheat crop-growth simulation model associated with global circulation models (GCMs). The effects of some of the feasible regional- and farm-based adaptation measures (management options) on crop yield and water and nitrogen (N) balance under the climate scenarios were simulated. Climate scenarios were defined based on the ECHAM5, HadCM3 and NCAR PCM GCM simulations for future conditions (2021–50) as described in the Special Report on Emission Scenarios A1B (Nakicenovic & Swart 2000). The potential development, yield, water demand and soil N leaching were estimated for winter wheat and all of the defined climates (including rising CO2 levels) and management scenarios (soil cultivation, windbreaks and irrigation).
The results showed that a warming of 2°C in the air temperature would shorten the crop-growing period by up to 20 days and would decrease the potential winter wheat yield on nearly all of the soil types in the region. Particularly, high-yield reductions were projected for light-textured soils such as Parachernozems. A change from ploughing to minimum tillage within the future scenario would lead to an increase of up to 8% of the mean yield of winter wheat. This effect mainly resulted from improved water supply to the crop, associated with higher soil water storage capacity and decrease of unproductive water losses. Hedgerows, which reduce the wind speed, were predicted to have particularly positive effects on medium and moderately fine-textured soils such as Chernozems and Fluvisols. With both management changes, regional mean-yield level can be expected to be +4% in comparison with no management changes in the future conditions. Compared with the baseline period, water demand for the potential yield of winter wheat would require 6–37 mm more water per crop season (area-weighted average). The highest water demand would be on medium-textured soils, which make up the largest amount of area in the study region. Additionally, the effects of snow accumulation near hedgerows would further increase the yield, but would also lead to higher N leaching rates. However, specific management options, such as minimum tillage and hedgerows, could contribute towards reducing the increasing water demand.