The role of drought on wheat yield interannual variability in the Iberian Peninsula from 1929 to 2012

P. Páscoa, C. M. Gouveia, A. Russo, R. M. Trigo
Int J Biometeorol, 61:439-451 DOI: 10.1007/s00484-016-1224-x

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The production of wheat in the Iberian Peninsula is strongly affected by climate conditions being particularly vulnerable to interannual changes in precipitation and long-term trends of both rainfall and evapotranspiration. Recent trends in precipitation and temperature point to an increase in dryness in this territory, thus highlighting the need to understand the dependence of wheat yield on climate conditions. The present work aims at studying the relation between wheat yields and drought events in the Iberian Peninsula, using a multiscalar drought index, the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), at various timescales. The effects of the occurrence of dry episodes on wheat yields were analyzed, on regional spatial scale for two subperiods (1929–1985 and 1986–2012). The results show that in western areas, wheat yield is positively affected by dryer conditions, whereas the opposite happens in eastern areas. The winter months have a bigger influence in the west while the east is more dependent on the spring and summer months. Moreover, in the period of 1986–2012, the simultaneous occurrence of low-yield anomalies and dry events reaches values close to 100 % over many provinces. Results suggest that May and June have a strong control on wheat yield, namely, for longer timescales (9 to 12 months). A shift in the dependence of wheat yields on climatic droughts is evidenced by the increase in the area with positive correlation and the decrease in area with negative correlation between wheat yields and SPEI, probably due to the increase of dry events.