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Impact of choice of future climate change projection on growth chamber experimental outcomes: a preliminary study in potato


Understanding the impacts of climate change on agriculture is essential to ensure adequate future food production. Controlled growth experiments provide an effective tool for assessing the complex effects of climate change. However, a review of the use of climate projections in 57 previously published controlled growth studies found that none considered within-season variations in projected future temperature change, and few considered regional differences in future warming. A fixed, often arbitrary, temperature perturbation typically was applied for the entire growing season. This study investigates the utility of employing more complex climate change scenarios in growth chamber experiments. A case study in potato was performed using three dynamically downscaled climate change projections for the mid-twenty-first century that differ in terms of the timing during the growing season of the largest projected temperature changes. The climate projections were used in growth chamber experiments for four elite potato cultivars commonly planted in Michigan’s major potato growing region. The choice of climate projection had a significant influence on the sign and magnitude of the projected changes in aboveground biomass and total tuber count, whereas all projections suggested an increase in total tuber weight and a decrease in specific gravity, a key market quality trait for potato, by mid-century. These results demonstrate that the use of more complex climate projections that extend beyond a simple incremental change can provide additional insights into the future impacts of climate change on crop production and the accompanying uncertainty.

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We would like to acknowledge Megan Conway and Paul Rosemurgy for their help with tuber harvesting. We also thank Chris Long for helpful discussions about potato growing conditions and harvest. We thank the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program for providing the regional climate model simulations.


This project was supported by Michigan State University GREEEN Proposal #GR15-008. The climate projections used in the study were developed with support from the National Science Foundation (Award CNH 0909378). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not reflect the views and policies of the funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Julie A. Winkler.

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Leisner, C.P., Wood, J.C., Vaillancourt, B. et al. Impact of choice of future climate change projection on growth chamber experimental outcomes: a preliminary study in potato. Int J Biometeorol 62, 669–679 (2018).

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  • Climate change
  • Controlled growth experiments
  • Potato
  • Regional climate model simulations
  • Uncertainty