Impact of heat and drought stress on arable crop production in Belgium
Modelling approaches are needed to accelerate understanding of adverse weather impacts on crop performances and yields. The aim was to elicit biometeorological conditions that affect Belgian arable crop yield, commensurate with the scale of climatic impacts. The regional crop model REGCROP (Gobin, 2010) enabled to examine changing weather patterns in relation to the crop season and crop sensitive stages of six arable crops: winter wheat, winter barley, winter rapeseed, potato, sugar beet and maize. The sum of vapour pressure deficit during the growing season is the single best predictor of arable yields, with R2 ranging from 0.55 for sugar beet to 0.76 for wheat. Drought and heat stress, in particular during the sensitive crop stages, occur at different times in the crop season and significantly differ between two climatic periods, 1947–1987 and 1988–2008. Though average yields have risen steadily between 1947 and 2008, there is no evidence that relative tolerance to stress has improved.