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The impact of future climate change and potential adaptation methods on Maize yields in West Africa

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Maize (Zea mays) is one of the staple crops of West Africa and is therefore of high importance with regard to future food security. The ability of West Africa to produce enough food is critical as the population is expected to increase well into the twenty-first century. In this study, a process-based crop model is used to project maize yields in Africa for global temperatures 2 K and 4 K above the preindustrial control. This study investigates how yields and crop failure rates are influenced by climate change and the efficacy of adaptation methods to mitigate the effects of climate change. To account for the uncertainties in future climate projections, multiple model runs have been performed at specific warming levels of + 2 K and + 4 K to give a better estimate of future crop yields. Under a warming of + 2 K, the maize yield is projected to reduce by 5.9% with an increase in both mild and severe crop failure rates. Mild and severe crop failures are yields 1 and 1.5 standard deviations below the observed yield. At a warming of + 4 K, the results show a yield reduction of 37% and severe crop failures which previously only occurred once in 19.7 years are expected to happen every 2.5 years. Crops simulated with a resistance to high temperature stress show an increase in yields in all climate conditions compared to unadapted crops; however, they still experience more crop failures than the unadapted crop in the control climate.

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The authors also wish to thank Julian Ramirez-Villegas for his help in developing the experimental methods.


The research leading to these results has received financial support from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement no 603864. (HELIX: High-End cLimate Impacts and eXtremes; PC is financially supported by the European Research Council Synergy grant ERC-2013-SyG-610028 IMBALANCE-P.

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Correspondence to Ben Parkes.

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Parkes, B., Sultan, B. & Ciais, P. The impact of future climate change and potential adaptation methods on Maize yields in West Africa. Climatic Change 151, 205–217 (2018).

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