By Jeremy Cherfas
There’s one optimistic conclusion for agriculture under climate change: modelling the future suggests that for many places, the climate they face in 20 or 30 years is already present somewhere on Earth. Farmers and plant scientists can prepare for the future by using something like the Climate Analogues Tool to suggest places to look for crops and varieties that might to some extent be pre-adapted to predicted conditions. The next problem, of course, is to access that genetic diversity.
The free movement of the genetic resources themselves and information about them is thus a crucial element in efforts to adapt agriculture to climate change.
The new study, "Flows under stress: Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change" describe how plant genetic resources move into and out of the CGIAR system. The study was carried out for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) by researchers at Bioversity International. It further reveals the invisible flows of material and identifies some of the blockages. Read more »
by Prem Narain Mathur, Bioversity International
Climate change is likely to profoundly affect production in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, which, in turn, can have serious consequences for food security in South Asia. Bioversity International, with support from CCAFS, is working with partners in India and Nepal to address this by exploring means of strengthening the link between researchers and local farmers in the context of adaptation to climate risks; exploring effective means of introducing new adapted landraces and varieties in the context of social and cultural barriers; and understanding local seed systems for adaptation under changing production constraints. Read more »
by Lisen Stenberg and Sonja Vermeulen
The Department for International Development of the UK (DFID) has just won a prize for “Best Technological Breakthrough” at London’s Climate Week, for their support of a project aimed at developing drought-tolerant maize in Africa. The innovation is the result of research by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), one of the CGIAR research centers. The new crop varieties are designed to resist climate change-induced water shortages, and they already being used by 2 million smallholder farmers in 13 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
By Lisen Stenberg
Agrobiodiversity can be described as the result of the interaction between the environment, genetic resources and human activities. It covers the variety of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are found in the agricultural ecosystem, as well as the different farming techniques used by farmers. Local knowledge and culture are vital parts of agrobiodiversity, because it is the human activity of agriculture that shapes and conserves this biodiversity. So why is this important for fighting climate change?
by Jeremy Cherfas, Bioversity International.
A new climate change tool will not only help farmers to prepare for the future, it may also spur implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
Although 127 countries rushed to ratify the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, far fewer have implemented it in national law. The reasons are many, and one that comes up often is that lawmakers don’t actually understand its importance. A planning meeting for a new Bioversity project, Strengthening National Capacities to Implement the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, funded by the Dutch government, heard this over and over again from representatives of the eight countries taking part in the project. But the meeting also heard about a new tool that could help to raise awareness - the Climate Analogue Tool.
They came and met; they discussed, argued, they laughed and they planned, they went around and went away. But they did it all together, and after three days of intensive work, African breeders and modelers came out one step closer to uniting around the challenge of climate-smart crops.
From 6 to 8 December, CCAFS theme 1 organized a workshop staged on the Addis Ababa campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The workshop titled ‘Developing climate-smart crops for 2030 world’ involved over 40 participants from 16 countries, broadly divided along either side of the breeding / modeling continuum. Read more »
The UK's chief scientists, Sir John Beddington, has said that no technological option be left untried in the effort to enhance agricultural productivity and improve food security for the world's growing population. This includes genetically modified crops, which Beddington said, are "no silver bullet," but their use must be justified in light of the problem the world faces: "water shortages and salination of existing water supplies, for example. GM crops should be able to deal with that."
A recent AlertNet analysis pulls together the various threads of the issue, citing key reports from our colleagues at IFPRI and FAO, and innovations in breeding from CIMMYT.
Developing “climate-ready crops”, as they are often called, will be essential to avoid production declines in the face of more extreme weather conditions, and to feed a growing global population in the coming decades.
There are many obstacles, including poor public opinion on GMOs in the North and the South, a monopoly of patent-holders, and of course, isolating the right genetic traits for the right conditions.
Africa flirts with GM technology in rush for climate-ready crops by Megan Rowling - AlertNet. 18 February 2011.
“Germplasm collection”, “allele diversity”, “Crop registers”, might sound like mystic academic terms to you. Likewise for me, I could hardly link them into the discussion about climate change and food security…. Until I visited the genebank on the ICRISAT campus near Hyderabad in India.
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is a non-profit organization conducting agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. ICRISAT is part of a consortium of similar agricultural research centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
…and they have a bank. Not to store money or gold, but to safeguard something much more precious: the genetic material – or “germplasm”- of 119,000 “accessions” -or varieties- of sorghum, pearl millet and six other types of small millets, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut, collected from 144 countries.
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)