The North China Plain (NCP) is one of the major winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) producing areas in China. Current wheat yields in the NCP stabilize around 5 Mg ha¿1 while the demand for wheat in China is growing due to the increase in population and the change in diet. Since options for area expansion of winter wheat are limited, the production per unit of area need to be increased. The objective of this study is to quantify the production potential of winter wheat in the NCP taking into account the spatial and temporal variability caused by climate. We use a calibrated crop growth simulation model to quantify wheat yields for potential and water-limited production situations using 40 years of weather data from 32 meteorological stations in the NCP. Simulation results are linked to a Geographic Information System (GIS) facilitating their presentation and contributing to the identification of hotspots for interventions aimed at yield improvements. In the northern part of the NCP, average simulated potential yields of winter wheat go up to 9.7 Mg ha¿1, while average water-limited yields only reach 3 Mg ha¿1. In the southern part of the NCP, both average potential and water-limited yields are about 7.5 Mg ha¿1. Rainfall is the limiting factor to winter wheat yields in the northern part of the NCP, while in the southern part, the joint effect of low radiation and high temperature are major limiting factors. Temporal variation in potential yields throughout the NCP is low in contrast with the temporal variation in water-limited yields, which is especially great in the northern part. The study calls for the collection of location-specific and disaggregated irrigated and rainfed wheat yield statistics in the NCP facilitating the identification of hotspots for improvement of current wheat yields.
- water-use efficiency