Quantifying high temperature risks and their potential effects on sorghum production in Australia


High temperatures across the Australian sorghum belt can reduce sorghum yields, but genotypic differences in heat tolerance could mitigate these yield losses. The objectives of this study were to quantify occurrences of high temperatures around anthesis of sorghum, determine their yield impacts, and assess the potential for management and genetics to minimise any adverse effects. Long term weather records for six locations across the Australian sorghum belt were used to quantify the probability of high temperature occurrence. These records were then used in a simulation study with the APSIM-sorghum model. The model was adapted to capture high temperature effects on grain yield for five hypothetical genotypes that differed in temperature threshold for effects on seed set and in tolerance to temperatures above that threshold. Results showed that the most common incidence of heat stress around anthesis was the occurrence of individual days with maximum temperatures between 36–38° C. Because these temperatures were near the threshold limiting seed set in tolerant genotypes, an increased temperature threshold generally minimised adverse yield effects. However, 1–5 °C predicted temperature increases in coming decades will justify additional selection for increased tolerance above the threshold. Manipulation of sowing dates did not reduce risks of heat stress around anthesis, unless sowing was extremely late. Hence, genetic improvement provides the best prospect to mitigate heat stress effects on grain yield.

Field Crop Research
Bangyou Zheng
Bangyou Zheng
Data Scientist / Digital Agronomist

a research scientist of digital agriculture at the CSIRO.