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Climate changes impact on future sorghum yield in the lower Shire Valley of Malawi

By: Charles Langton Vanya, Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, Malawi Email: Abstract Climate change will likely cause changes in the weather patterns over Malawi, which may include the extreme episodes of rainfall and temperatures. High intra-annual and inter-seasonal variability in rainfall and temperatures will serious affect food security in the Shire Valley of Malawi. To cope with expected changes in rainfall and temperatures in the valley, factors influencing variability need to be understood. A simulation study was carried out to assess the potential sensitivity of sorghum yield to likely changes in temperatures and rainfall in the Shire Valley. Sorghum grain yield was considered in the study with respect to three fertilizer management styles which include No application (0)kg/ha fertilizer, 25kg/ha of Urea, 50kg.ha Urea. Impacts of changes in temperature, rainfall and CO2 concentration was determined using individual candidate first and then combined impacts of these variables. Analysis for the projection of period 2046-65 was done with CO2 concentration of 570ppm, Tmin+1.8C, Tmax+1.6C, and for 2070-2100 CO2 concentration of 700ppm, T min and Tmax of 3.0C, rainfall of 16% conditions. Rainfall intensity was changed to modify the historical rainfall data by rainfall of 9% for 2046-2065 and -16% for 2070-2100. The Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) was used to simulate the potential yield for baseline period 1971-2004, 2046-2065 and 2070-2100 climatic conditions. the study revealed that by 2030, Shire Valleys seasonal temperature will increase by 3C causing an average reduction in the yield by 13% (0kg/ha), 8.8% (25kg/ha) and 7.6% (50kg/ha). Changes in seasonal total rainfall as well as intra-seasonal temperature variability may severely impact crop yields by 2065. Hybrid variety was more sensitive to effect of changes in 2070-2100, while local variety (Thengalamanga) was more sensitive to rainfall reduction during the same period. Locally variety could be more beneficial to increase in temperatures while concentration would reduce yield in both variety. Analysis of present (observed) and future (CSIRO model) climate variability showed increase in the trends of extreme events such as rainfall and temperatures. This study highlights that, in addition to changes in intra-seasonal variability of rainfall, increased trend in consecutive number of dry days (CDD) will also be important for future yields in the Shire Valley. In addition to this, the study suggest for a need to invest in improving the temperature and radiation records in the study area to enhance understanding of their relationships to crop production. Keywords: Extreme events; crop simulation model; crop yields, APSIM, CSIRO MK3.6, Cultivar.