European farmers need to take a new course with regard to ensuring climate-resilience of important crops such as wheat.
The climate is not only warming, it is also becoming more variable and extreme. Such unpredictable weather can weaken global food security if major crops such as wheat are not sufficiently resilient – and if we are not properly prepared.
A group of European researchers, including Professor Jørgen E. Olesen from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, has found that current breeding programmes and cultivar selection practices do not provide the needed resilience to climate change.
The current breeding programmes and cultivar selection practices do not sufficiently prepare for climatic uncertainty and variability, the authors state in a paper recently published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Not only that - the response diversity of wheat on farmers’ fields in most European countries has worsened in the past five to fifteen years, depending on country.
Researchers predict that greater variability and extremeness of local weather conditions will lead to reduced yields in wheat and increased yield variability.
Needless to say, decreased yields are not conducive to food security, but higher yield variability also poses problems. It can lead to a market with greater speculation and price volatility. This may threaten stable access to food by the poor, which in turn can enhance political instability and migration, Jørgen E. Olesen points out.
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