Projected long-term climate trends reveal the critical role of vapor pressure deficit for soybean yields in the US Midwest

Wenguang Sun, David Fleisher, Dennis Timlin, Chittaranjan Ray, Zhuangji Wang, Sahila Beegum, Vangimalla Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Extreme climate events including heat waves and droughts are projected to become more frequent under future climate change conditions. However, the mechanisms between soybean yields and climate factors, specifically involving variable rainfall and high heat episodes, are still unclear, particularly with respect to spatial trends in the United States (US) Midwest. A recently modified version of the model GLYCIM was used to evaluate rainfed soybean production across 12 states at a 10 km spatial resolution for three time periods (2011–2020, 2051–2060, 2091–2099) under Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios 4.5 and 8.5. Results showed that except for the northernmost Midwest counties, most of the current rainfed cropping system in the Midwest would suffer a 24.6–47.4 % yield loss without considering the CO2 fertility effect. Incorporating the effect of elevated CO2 showed a smaller yield loss of 11.6–29.5 %. The increased frequency of extreme degree days (EDD) or accumulation of hourly temperatures above 30 °C associated with increased vapor pressure deficit (VPD) played a key role in contributing to water deficits and resultant crop losses under these future climate conditions. Although a relatively weak relationship between summer rainfall and crop yield was observed, decreased rainfall caused VPD to increase which induced crop water deficits. These findings suggest that it is crucial to consider VPD along with high temperature and low rainfall trends simultaneously for development of potential management or breeding-based adaptative strategies for soybean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number162960
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 20 2023


  • Crop model
  • Drought
  • Elevated CO
  • Soybean yield
  • VPD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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