Climate Change and Potato Production in Contrasting South African Agro-Ecosystems 2. Assessing Risks and Opportunities of Adaptation Strategies

A.C. Franke, A.J. Haverkort, J.M. Steyn

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This study aims to assess the risks and opportunities posed by climate change to potato growers in South Africa and to evaluate adaptation measures in the form of changes in planting time growers could adopt to optimise land and water use efficiencies in potato, using a climate model of past, present-day and future climate over southern Africa and the LINTUL crop growth model. This was done for distinct agro-ecosystems in South Africa: the southern Mediterranean area where potato still is grown year round with a doubling of the number of hot days between 1960 and 2050, the Eastern Free State with summer crops only and Limpopo with currently autumn, winter and spring crops where the number of hot days increases sevenfold and in future the crop will mainly be grown in winter. A benefit here will be a drastic reduction of frost days from 0.9 days per winter to 0. Potato crops in the agro-ecosystems will benefit considerably from increased CO2 levels such as increased tuber yield and reduced water use by the crop, if planting is shifted to appropriate times of the year. When the crop is grown in hot periods, however, these benefits are counteracted by an increased incidence of heat stress and increased evapotranspiration, leading in some instances to considerably lower yields and water use efficiencies. Therefore year-round total production at the Sandveld stabilizes at around 140 Mg¿ha-1 (yield reduction in summer and yield increase in winter), increases by about 30% in the Free State and stays at about 95 t¿ha-1 at Limpopo where yield increase due to CO2 is annulled by a shorter growing season. When the crop is grown in a cool period, there is an additional benefit of a reduced incidence of cold stress and a more rapid canopy development in the early stages of crop growth. In all three areas, potato growers are likely to respond to climate change by advancing planting. In Limpopo, a major benefit of climate change is a reduction in the risk of frost damage in winter. The relevance of these findings for potato grown in agro-ecosystems elsewhere in the world is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-66
JournalPotato Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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