Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version





2003 American Meteorological Society


Understanding climate effects on crop yield has been a continuous endeavor aiming at improving farming technology and management strategy, minimizing negative climate effects, and maximizing positive climate effects on yield. Many studies have examined climate effects on corn yield in different regions of the United States. However, most of those studies used yield and climate records that were shorter than 10 years and were for different years and localities. Although results of those studies showed various influences of climate on corn yield, they could be time specific and have been difficult to use for deriving a comprehensive understanding of climate effects on corn yield. In this study, climate effects on corn yield in central Missouri are examined using unique long-term (1895–1998) datasets of both corn yield and climate. Major results show that the climate effects on corn yield can only be explained by within-season variations in rainfall and temperature and cannot be distinguished by average growing-season conditions. Moreover, the growing-season distributions of rainfall and temperature for high-yield years are characterized by less rainfall and warmer temperature in the planting period, a rapid increase in rainfall, and more rainfall and warmer temperatures during germination and emergence. More rainfall and cooler-than-average temperatures are key features in the anthesis and kernel-filling periods from June through August, followed by less rainfall and warmer temperatures during the September and early October ripening time. Opposite variations in rainfall and temperature in the growing season correspond to low yield. Potential applications of these results in understanding how climate change may affect corn yield in the region also are discussed.