Impacts of Recent Climate change on wheat production systems in Western Australia

F. Ludwig, S.P. Milroy, S. Asseng

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57 Citations (Scopus)


The wheatbelt of Western Australia shows a distinct Mediterranean climate with most of the rainfall occurring in the winter months. The main factor limiting plant production in this region is rainfall. Due to clearing of native vegetation, dryland salinity is a major problem in south-west Australia. Since the mid 1970s the region has experienced a significant decrease in winter rainfall. Across nine sites, growing season rainfall (May to October) decreased by an average of 11% and the sum of rainfall in June and July (June + July) decreased by 20%. We used the ASPIM-Nwheat model in combination with historic climate data to study the impact of recent climate change on the hydrology and production of wheat based farming systems by comparing results for before and after 1975. Despite the large decline in rainfall, simulated yields based on the actual weather data did not fall. At the same time, simulated drainage decreased by up to 95% which will significantly reduce the spread of dryland salinity. These results were due to the rainfall changes mainly occurring in June and July, a period when rainfall often exceeds crop demand and large amounts of water are usually lost by deep drainage. The findings will have significant implications for estimates of future climate change impacts in this region with changes in rainfall causing non-proportional impacts on production and hydrological aspects, such as deep drainage and waterlogging, where proportionality is often presumed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-517
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • mediterranean environment
  • use efficiency
  • deep drainage
  • water
  • apsim
  • yield
  • model
  • variability
  • performance
  • simulation

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