Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change

Global field expeditions help farmers adapt to climate change by securing genetic traits of crops.

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For example, wild plants could address the issue of rice's temperature sensitivity. At a critical stage in rice flowering, a one degree Celsius change in temperature can cut yields by 10 percent. Most high-yield rice varieties flower during the heat of the day, but some wild rice relatives flower at night. "With climate change, temperatures rising by a few degrees could cut yields by 30 to 40 percent," said Fowler. "But if we could just incorporate the characteristic of night-flowering from wild rice into farmed rice, we could save millions of tons of rice, and thousands of lives. That would pay for the project many times over."

"This is a game changer," said Fowler. "This project will provide us with enormous amounts of diversity, and will provide plant breeders and farmers around the world with access to that diversity. We're going to find resistance to diseases and pests that farmers have never had before. If—and it remains an 'if'—we are to adapt agriculture to climate change, we need to stack the odds heavily in the farmers' favor. This does just that."

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