News Stories

Farming in the Future

Climate change could cause severe crop losses in South Asia and southern Africa over the next 20 years, because these countries could lose more than a third of their main crop, which is corn, due to heat and drought?or floods. The Israelis, who have experience growing crops in the desert, have developed a way to help plants adapt to the harsh conditions caused by global warming.

BBC News quotes researcher David Lobell as saying, "To identify which crops in which regions are most under threat by 2030, we combined projections of climate change with data on what poor people eat, as well as past relationships between crop harvests and climate variability," and his co-researcher Marshall Burke as saying, "For poor farmers on the margin of survival, these losses could really be crushing."

The past is no longer a reliable base on which to plan the future of water supplies in big cities either. Civil engineer Dennis Lettenmaier says, "With the climate changing, past years aren't necessarily representative of the future anymore?The way business has been done in the past will no longer work in a changing climate."

Human-induced changes to Earth's climate have begun to shift the averages and the extremes for rainfall, snowfall, evaporation and stream flows, and these are crucial factors when planning for floods or droughts, choosing the size of water reservoirs or deciding how much water to allocate for residential, industrial and agricultural uses.Geologist Christopher Milly says, "Historically, looking back at past observations has been a good way to estimate future conditions, but climate change magnifies the possibility that the future will bring droughts or floods you never saw in your old measurements."

Israeli scientists have identified genes that help plants weather harsh conditions, which could lead to the development of crops that can survive climate change. Yahoo News.com quotes researcher Simon Barak as saying, "We manipulated these genes to enhance the plant's own tolerance systems, making the plant more resistant to salinity, heat and drought. As we decode the exact mechanism linking the genes to the degree of tolerance, we will understand them better, but so far we have only had a tiny glimpse."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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