Responding to appeals from African leaders for new tools to deal with the effects of climate change on food production, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has released a series of studies focused on “climate proofing” crops critical to food security in the developing world.
The studies constitute various chapters in a new book titled Crop Adaptation to Climate Change from John Wiley & Sons, which was developed by an international team of the world’s leading climate and agricultural researchers to provide adaptation strategies for more than a dozen crops—such as potatoes, beans, bananas and cassava —on which billions of people depend worldwide.
The studies describe how climate change could threaten food production and how specific adaptation strategies could neutralize or at least significantly lessen the impact. They argue that investments are urgently needed to identify important genetic traits, including drought tolerance and pest resistance, which will be critical for helping farmers adapt to new growing conditions.
The studies indicate that many of the critical traits farmers will need to deal with hotter, dryer, and in some cases, wetter conditions likely reside in seeds now safeguarded by international crop genebanks. But researchers note that tapping the potential of plant genetic resources, particularly the rich vein of traits contained in the wild relatives of key crops, will require more intensive application of cutting edge biotechnology, including new tools from the rapidly developing fields of genomics and transgenics.
The studies indicate that the most direct impact on crop yields will come from changes in temperature and rainfall. But they also warn that indirect effects of climate change could result from altered incidence of pests and disease, though these changes will not always be for the worse.
Data on the projected impacts of climate change on bananas, beans, cassava and potatoes are available on the website of the recently launched Adaptation and Mitigation Knowledge Network (AMKN) (www.amkn.org). This online platform brings together a large volume of knowledge from diverse sources about climate mitigation and adaptation and links it to interactive maps. Users can access tools and information, such as climate models, drought indexes, and socio-economic data about agriculture, together with farmer comments on video and photos from pilot sites across the tropics.