Understanding past and future impacts of climate change in agriculture: implications for adaptation planning

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 26th Mar 2013 | last updated 2nd Jun 2017
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Key Messages

  • Annual average air temperature in China has risen slightly faster than the average rate of global warming. The warming has led in places to a lengthening of the growing season and has affected cropping systems and management practices.
  • Droughts are responsible for the largest direct economic losses due to natural hazards in China. Average annual grain losses were 14 million tons between 1949 and 2001 accounting for 4.6% of average grain production over the same period. Flood events also disrupt agriculture and accounted for 28% of the total economic losses due to meteorological disasters during 2004-2009.
  • There is a tendency for wheat, rice and maize yields to decrease in the southern parts of China, where crops are already grown close to their temperature tolerance and warmer conditions speed up crop maturation; yields tend to increase in central, north and north-eastern China benefitting from the longer crowing season.
  • The effects of recent climate trends and extremes highlights the challenge they pose for agriculture in China. Improved understanding of their impacts can help the design of adaptation strategies.
  • Preliminary studies show there is good potential to increase food production if the right strategies and technologies can be identified.