Cultivating C4 crops in a changing climate: sugarcane in Ghana

Authors Black, E.; Vidale, P.Luigi; Verhoef, A.; Cuadra, S.Vianna; Osborne, T.; Van den Hoof, C.
Year of Publication 2012
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal Environmental Research Letters
Volume 7
Issue 4
Pagination 044027
Open Access Yes


Over the next few decades, it is expected that increasing fossil fuel prices will lead to a proliferation of energy crop cultivation initiatives. The environmental sustainability of these activities is thus a pressing issue—particularly when they take place in vulnerable regions, such as West Africa. In more general terms, the effect of increased CO2 concentrations and higher temperatures on biomass production and evapotranspiration affects the evolution of the global hydrological and carbon cycles. Investigating these processes for a C4 crop, such as sugarcane, thus provides an opportunity both to extend our understanding of the impact of climate change, and to assess our capacity to model the underpinning processes. This paper applies a process-based crop model to sugarcane in Ghana (where cultivation is planned), and the São Paulo region of Brazil (which has a well-established sugarcane industry). We show that, in the Daka River region of Ghana, provided there is sufficient irrigation, it is possible to generate approximately 75% of the yield achieved in the São Paulo region. In the final part of the study, the production of sugarcane under an idealized temperature increase climate change scenario is explored. It is shown that doubling CO2 mitigates the degree of water stress associated with a 4°C increase in temperature.