Yesterday we launched a series of reports which look at the effectiveness of global climate models in predicting agricultural impacts in Africa and South Asia, with a particular emphasis on their ability to predict how climate change will affect key crops in those regions. The results are not surprising: we don't have perfect climate projections for agriculture, and in many cases, the data is quite weak. So what can we do about it?
In a live video seminar yesterday, lead authors Mark New from the University of Cape Town and Richard Washington from Oxford University, noted the weaknesses and emphasized that in some cases, a variety of models can be used together to overcome individual weaknesses. This approach, however, requires quite a lot of time and effort. On the bright side, the authors noted that more and more information is becoming available. The studies also highlight where models need further development, providing a useful guide for research investments. In case you missed it you can still watch a recording of the session.
The overarching message is that this uncertainty not an excuse for inaction. In response to yesterday's report, our colleagues at CIAT have published an insightful analysis of the role of uncertainty. Rather than being something that dogs climate science, uncertainty must be perceived as a basic feature and can even be a positive driver: Read more »
For cassava, a root crop of South American origin that is grown across the tropics, substantial increases in rainfall—predicted for nearly half of the world's cassava growing area—are a primary cause for alarm. Zoom into a map of current climate constraints (water-logging stress) of cassava in South America.
This research comes from new studies on "climate proofing" key crops across the tropics by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which highlight how climate change will impact crops that are critical to food security in the developing world, and what adaptation strategies can help reduce these impacts. Read more »
For most crops, "plant breeding will probably be the cornerstone" of climate change adaptation, says Stephen Beebe, a scientist from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who co-authored new studies on "climate proofing" key crops across the tropics. The studies by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) highlight how climate change will impact crops that are critical to food security in the developing world, and what adaptation strategies can help reduce these impacts. Read more »
For bananas and plantains, climate change may significantly alter both yields as well as vulnerability to diseases, which would affect the food security and incomes of millions of Africans and Latin Americans. The East African Highland Banana, for example, is a starchy staple for 80 million people in Africa alone. Zoom in to see area harvested (2009) for the East Africa highland banana.
The research comes from new studies on "climate proofing" key crops across the tropics. The studies by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) highlight how climate change will impact crops that are critical to food security in the developing world, and what adaptation strategies can help reduce these impacts.
Scientists report that the potato, a dietary staple for millions of people around the world, is especially vulnerable to heat stress which reduces growth and starch formation. See a map of current climate constraints for potatoes worldwide. Rising temperatures in southern Africa and tropical highlands worldwide could be particularly hazardous.
One concern is that climate change could drive the spread of the destructive potato tuber moth northward and to higher elevations. However, some positive effects are also expected in some regions where drier and warmer summers will likely decrease the incidence of potato's worst disease—late blight, which caused Ireland's potato famine in the 19th century. View a map of current climate constraints of Potatoes in India, Asia and the Himalayas. Read more »
Un des paradoxes du changement climatique réside dans le fait que tandis que le tiers de la superficie totale en terres vivra certainement sous des climats nouveaux, le climat mondial en général sera probablement plus homogène (PDF). Par conséquent, il est nécessaire d’accélérer à la fois les expériences (pour l’innovation) et les échanges entre des environnements éloignés mais bénéficiant de conditions similaires) afin d’aider nos variétés de cultures, bétail et poissons à s’adapter.
Les petits agriculteurs sont désireux d’expérimenter de nouvelles variétés et ils en cultivent souvent plusieurs d’une même espèce. Pourtant, alors que les « variétés améliorées » sont devenues largement populaires, de nombreux cultivateurs préfèrent planter des variétés autochtones, conservées dans leurs propres fermes ou échangées avec des voisins. La principale préoccupation est donc de savoir si ces systèmes semenciers très localisés ont une portée génétique et géographique suffisamment grande pour subsister au sein des climats agricoles en mutation. Read more »
One paradox of climate change is that while as much as a third of global land surface might experience entirely novel climates, overall the world’s climate is likely to be more homogenous (PDF). The implication is that we need to accelerate both experimentation (for novelty) and exchange (across distant but similar environments) to help our crop, livestock and fish varieties adapt.
Small-scale farmers are very willing to experiment with new varieties, and often grow more than one variety of the same crop. But while “improved varieties” have become widely popular, many farmers still prefer to plant local landraces, conserved on their own farms or exchanged with neighbours. A major concern, then, is whether these highly localised seed systems have sufficient genetic and geographic scope to keep up with changing agricultural climates. Read more »
The future of food security and the need for farmers to adapt to a changing climate was recently discussed by CCAFS Theme Leader Gerald C. Nelson when he was interviewed by the National Public Radio (USA). Also participating in the radio program ‘Feeding a Hotter; More Crowded Planet’ was the President o the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) Lester Brown and the director of Oxfam America Gawain Kripke.
Gerald C. Nelson, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and leader of the CCAFS policy analysis research together with the other participants, discussed the challenges of keeping food supplies secure in the face of a changing climate and potential solutions. Since nearly one billion people worldwide don’t have reliable access to food, something climate change might increase, solutions are more than critical. Read more »
I remember someone once stating in a presentation that there is no single silver bullet to climate change adaptation – we have to throw everything at the problem. In CCAFS Theme 1 on Adapting to Progressive Change we see that adaptation in production systems requires a hard look at reducing the yield gap and effectively managing existing knowledge about suitable practices and technologies to adapt to the future, but we also need to raise the bar by supporting crop improvement to deliver farmers with varieties that can stand up to the many challenges of the future. In DAPA and CCAFS we hope to play an important role in the development of science-based guidance on appropriate crop improvement strategies for a dynamic climate. Read more »
There may already be data showing that a changing climate is adversely impacting key crops. That's what Stanford agricultural scientist David Lobell and his colleagues at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) discovered when they looked at "a hidden trove" of crop yield data from corn trials in Africa. They found that a temperature rise of a single degree Celsius would cause yield losses for 65 percent of the present maize-growing region in Africa – provided the crops received the optimal amount of rainfall. Under drought conditions, the entire maize-growing region would suffer yield losses, with more than 75 percent of areas predicted to decline by at least 20 percent for 1 degree Celsius of warming. Read more »
CCAFS Coordinating Unit - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark, phone +45 35331046; Email ccafs [at] cgiar [dot] org, EAN 5790000279012
Lead Center - International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)