Climate change a mixed blessing for wheat, say experts
Climate change may have a profound effect on the world's ability to produce wheat — one of its staple crops — and adaptation efforts must take into account both the positive and negative effects of climate shifts, say wheat experts.
Production in some regions, such as India and Mexico, is predicted to be negatively affected by climate change, according to Thomas Lumpkin, director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).
But, in other regions, such as northern China, production may benefit from warmer winters.
"Both high temperatures and reduced rainfall will be more common, and wheat will be the most severely affected major crop," Lumpkin told SciDev.Net on the sidelines of the 2012 Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Technical Workshop in China this month (1—4 September).
Despite several years of record South Asian harvests, global weather patterns appear to be changing, and regional food shortages may cause political upheaval, Lumpkin said.
Bangladesh has seen its wheat production area and yields reduce dramatically, as a consequence of a heat stress caused by climate change, and the current US drought has led to rising food prices, likely to stir up social unrest, according to Lumpkin.
"We already have evidence that high wheat prices in 2008 helped stimulate the 'Arab Spring' events in Libya, Egypt and Syria," Lumpkin said.
Ravi Prakash Singh, head of CIMMYT's Irrigated Bread Wheat Improvement and Rust Research programme, agreed: "Each country will need to invest more in agriculture, otherwise food shortages can lead to social unrest, as seen in recent years in some countries".
Article continues at ENN affiliate, Science and Development Network
Wheat field image via Shutterstock