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Assessing Future Rice Yields in China

Paper Reviewed
Yu, Y., Zhang, W. and Huang, Y. 2014. Impact assessment of climate change, carbon dioxide fertilization and constant growing season on rice yields in China. Climatic Change 124: 763-775.

In the words of Yu et al. (2014), "rice is the main food staple in China" and "18.5% of the world's rice-growing area is located in this country." In addition, they say that "China contributed 28.0% of the global production of rice in 2011," according to FAOSTAT (2013), while noting that "this production strongly affects the world rice market," citing Slayton (2009). Furthermore, they say that "in upcoming decades, it will be necessary to produce more rice to feed China's increasing population" and that "there is therefore an increasing need to assess the effects of global changes on future rice yields."

Taking their own advice on the matter, Yu et al. estimated the impacts of climate change, CO2 fertilization, crop adaptation and the interactions of these three factors on Chinese rice yields via model simulations for four hypothetical scenarios. In the words of the three researchers, and according to the results of their model simulations, they found that (1) "rice yields without CO2 fertilization are predicted to decrease by 3.3% in the 2040s," that (2) "considering a constant rice-growing season (GS), the rice yields are predicted to increase by 3.2%," that (3) "when the effect of CO2 fertilization is integrated into the Agro-C model, the expected rice yields increase by 20.9%," and that (4) "when constant GS and CO2 fertilization are both integrated into the model, the predicted rice yield increases by 28.6%."

In light of these several findings, it is clear that the future of rice cultivation in China looks bright indeed. And Yu et al. further note that expected genetic improvements in photosynthetic efficiency and flexible planting dates are likely to make things brighter still, citing the work of Challinor et al. (2009).

Challinor, A.J., Ewert, F., Arnold, S., Simelton, E. and Fraser, E. 2009. Crops and climate change: progress, trends, and challenges in simulating impacts and informing adaptation. Journal of Experimental Botany 60: 2775-2789.

FAOSTAT 2013. Statistics Database. Available at

Slayton, T. 2009. Rice Crisis Forensics: How Asian Governments Carelessly Set the World Rice Market on Fire. Center for Global Development. Working Paper 163.

Reviewed 24 September 2014