Cultivars to face climate change effects on crops and weeds: a review

N. E. Korres, J. K. Norsworthy, P. Tehranchian, T. K. Gitsopoulos, D. A. Loka, D. M. Oosterhuis, D. R. Gealy, S. R. Moss, N. R. O. Burgos

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Climate change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Climate change will impact many activities, but its effects on agricultural production could be acute. Estimates of annual damages in agriculture due to temperature increase or extended periods of drought will be more costly than damages in other activities. Yield losses are caused both by direct effects of climate change on crops and by indirect effects such as increased inputs in crop production for weed control. One possible solution to counteract the effects of climate change is to seek crop cultivars that are adapted to highly variable, extreme climatic conditions and pest changes. Here we review the effects of climate change on crop cultivars and weeds. Biomass increase will augment marketable yield by 8–70 % for C3 cereals, by 20–144 % for cash and vegetable crops, and by 6–35 % for flowers. Such positive effects could however be reduced by decreasing water and nutrient availability. Rising temperature will decrease yields of temperature-sensitive crops such as maize, soybean, wheat, and cotton or specialty crops such as almonds, grapes, berries, citrus, or stone fruits. Rice, which is expected to yield better under increased CO2, will suffer serious yield losses under high temperatures. Drought stress should decrease the production of tomato, soybean, maize, and cotton. Nevertheless, reviews on C4 photosynthesis response to water stress in interaction with CO2 concentration reveal that elevated CO2 concentration lessens the deleterious effect of drought on plant productivity. C3 weeds respond more strongly than C4 types to CO2 increases through biomass and leaf area increases. The positive response of C3 crops to elevated CO2 may make C4 weeds less competitive for C3 crops, whereas C3 weeds in C4 or C3 crops could become a problem, particularly in tropical regions. Temperature increases will mainly affect the distribution of weeds, particularly C4 type, by expanding their geographical range. This will enhance further yield losses and will affect weed management systems negatively. In addition, the expansion of invasive weed species such as itchgrass, cogongrass, and witchweed facilitated by temperature increases will increase the cost for their control. Under water or nutrient shortage scenarios, an r-strategist with characteristics in the order S-C-R, such as Palmer amaranth, large crabgrass, johnsongrass, and spurges, will most probably prevail. Selection of cultivars that secure high yields under climate change but also by competing weeds is of major importance. Traits related with (a) increased root/shoot ratio, (b) vernalization periods, (c) maturity, (d) regulation of node formation and/or internode distance, (e) harvest index variations, and (f) allelopathy merit further investigation. The cumulative effects of selecting a suitable stress tolerator-competitor cultivar will be reflected in reductions of environmental pollution, lower production costs, and sustainable food production. © 2016, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number1
Early online date18 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2016


  • allelopathy
  • carbon dioxide
  • climate change
  • competitive ability
  • cultivar selection
  • drought
  • integrated weed management
  • stress tolerance
  • temperature
  • weed competition


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