Impact of climate change on crop yield: A case study of rainfed corn in central illinois

Ximing Cai, Dingbao Wang, Romain Laurent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper assesses the effect of climate change on crop yield from a soil water balance perspective. The uncertainties of regional-scale climate models, local-scale climate variability, emissions scenarios, and crop growth models are combined to explore the possible range of climate change effects on rainfed corn yield in central Illinois in 2055. The results show that a drier and warmer summer during the corn growth season and wetter and warmer precrop and postcrop seasons will likely occur. Greater temperature and precipitation variability may lead to more variable soil moisture and crop yield, and larger soil moisture deficit and crop yield reduction are likely to occur more frequently. The increased water stress is likely to be most pronounced during the flowering and yield formation stages. The expected rainfed corn yield in 2055 is likely to decline by 23%-34%, and the probability that the yield may not reach 50% of the potential yield ranges from 32% to 70% if no adaptation measures are instituted. Among the multiple uncertainty sources, the greenhouse gas emissions projection may have the strongest effect on the risk estimate of crop yield reduction. The effects from the various uncertainties can be offset to some degree when the uncertainties are considered jointly. An ensemble of GCMs with an equal weight may overestimate the risk of soil moisture deficits and crop yield reduction in comparison with an ensemble of GCMs with different weight determined by the root-meansquare error minimization method. The risk estimate presented in this paper implies that climate change adaptation is needed to avoid reduced corn yields and the resulting profit losses in central Illinois.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1868-1881
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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