Post-Heading Heat Stress in Rice of South China during 1981-2010

<div><p>Frequent extreme heat events are the serious threat to rice production, but the historical trend of heat stress associated with phenology shift and its impact on rice yield over a long period are poorly known. Based on the analysis of observed climate and phenology data from 228 stations in South China during 1981-2010, the spatio-temporal variation of post-heading heat stress was investigated among two single-season rice sub-regions in the northern Middle and Lower Reaches of Yangtze River (S-NMLYtz) and Southwest Plateau (S-SWP), and two double-season early rice sub-regions in the southern Middle and Lower Reaches of Yangtze River (DE-SMLYtz) and Southern China (DE-SC). Post-heading heat stress was more severe in DE-SMLYtz, west S-NMLYtz and east S-SWP than elsewhere, because of rice exposure to the hot season during post-heading stage. The spatial variation of post-heading heat stress was greater in single-season rice region than in double-season early rice region due to the greater spatial variation of heading and maturity dates. Post-heading heat stress increased from 1981 to 2010 in most areas, with significant increases in the east of double-season early rice region and west S-SWP. Phenology shift during 1981-2010 mitigated the increasing trends of heat stress in most areas, but not in west S-SWP. Post-heading heat stress played a dominated role in the reduction of rice yield in South China. Grain yield was more sensitive to post-heading heat stress in double-season early rice region than that in single-season rice region. Rice yield decreased by 1.5%, 6.2%, 9.7% and 4.6% in S-NMLYtz, S-SWP, DE-SMLYtz and DE-SC, respectively, because of post-heading heat stress during 1981-2010, although there were some uncertainties. Given the current level and potential increase of post-heading heat stress in South China, the specific adaptation or mitigation strategies are necessary for different sub-regions to stabilize rice production under heat stress.</p></div>