Basso, B., R. A. Martinez-Feria, L. Rill, and J. T. Ritchie. 2021. Contrasting long-term temperature trends reveal minor changes in projected potential evapotranspiration in the US Midwest. Nature Communications 12:1476.
Warming generally leads to increased evaporative demand, altering the amount of water needed for growing crops. For the Midwest, some studies have suggested that reaching yield targets by 2050 will not be possible without additional precipitation or large expansion of irrigation. Here, we show that this claim is not supported by the historical summer climate trends, which indicate that the warming of daily average temperatures is largely driven by increases in minimum temperatures, while maximum temperatures have decreased. This has translated into a net decrease in vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and potential evapotranspiration (PET). With the increasing rainfall, this suggests that crop water deficits have likely become less frequent in the region despite the warming climate. By projecting these trends into 2050 and ancillary use of a crop model, we estimate minor changes in PET that would have minimal effects on corn yields (<6%) under persistence of these trends.
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