Global warming and shifts in cropping systems together reduce China’s rice production

Published by Stephanie Mayer on

Climate warming is widely expected to affect rice yields, but results are equivocal and variation in rice cropping systems and climatic conditions complicates country-scale yield assessments. Here we show, through meta–analysis of field warming experiments, that yield responses to warming differ strongly between China’s rice cropping systems. Whereas warming increases yields in “single rice” systems, it decreases yields in “middle rice” systems and has contrasting effects for early and late rice in “double rice” systems. We further show that the contribution of these cropping systems to China’s total rice production has shifted dramatically over recent decades. We estimate that if the present structure of rice cropping systems persists, warming will reduce China’s total rice production by 5.0% in 2060. However, if the recent decline in the area of double rice systems continues, China’s rice production may decrease by 13.5%. Our results underline the need for maintaining the current area of China’s “double rice” cropping system and for technological innovations in multiple rice cropping systems to ensure food security in a warming climate.