Modeling the Impacts of Climate Change on Crop Yield and Irrigation in the Monocacy River Watershed, USA

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Paul, Manashi
Dangol, Sijal
Kholodovsky, Vitaly
Sapkota, Amy R.
Negahban-Azar, Masoud
Lansing, Stephanie
Paul, M.; Dangol, S.; Kholodovsky, V.; Sapkota, A.R.; Negahban-Azar, M.; Lansing, S. Modeling the Impacts of Climate Change on Crop Yield and Irrigation in the Monocacy River Watershed, USA. Climate 2020, 8, 139.
Crop yield depends on multiple factors, including climate conditions, soil characteristics, and available water. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of projected temperature and precipitation changes on crop yields in the Monocacy River Watershed in the Mid-Atlantic United States based on climate change scenarios. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was applied to simulate watershed hydrology and crop yield. To evaluate the effect of future climate projections, four global climate models (GCMs) and three representative concentration pathways (RCP 4.5, 6, and 8.5) were used in the SWAT model. According to all GCMs and RCPs, a warmer climate with a wetter Autumn and Spring and a drier late Summer season is anticipated by mid and late century in this region. To evaluate future management strategies, water budget and crop yields were assessed for two scenarios: current rainfed and adaptive irrigated conditions. Irrigation would improve corn yields during mid-century across all scenarios. However, prolonged irrigation would have a negative impact due to nutrients runoff on both corn and soybean yields compared to rainfed condition. Decision tree analysis indicated that corn and soybean yields are most influenced by soil moisture, temperature, and precipitation as well as the water management practice used (i.e., rainfed or irrigated). The computed values from the SWAT modeling can be used as guidelines for water resource managers in this watershed to plan for projected water shortages and manage crop yields based on projected climate change conditions.