The challenge

Over the next 40 years, future farming and food systems will face substantially modified environments as they struggle to produce 60-70% more food to meet the demands of a growing global population. This will be exacerbated by a range of additional abiotic and biotic stresses resulting from a progressively changing climate characterized by higher temperatures, altered precipitation patterns and rising sea levels.

  • Even a 2°C rise in global temperature by 2100 in the range of the IPCC low emission scenario will destabilize current farming systems.
  • Strengthening the adaptive capacities of farmers and other land and aquatic resource users requires a variety of strategies ranging from diversification of production systems to improved institutional settings and enabling policies.
  • Significant knowledge gaps exist as to what adaptations options are available, what their likely benefits or costs, where and when they should be deployed, and what the learning processes are that can support widespread change under uncertainty.
  • The major challenge is to enable accelerated adaptation without threatening sensitive livelihood systems. Holistic approaches which consider the interactions of different technical and policy sectors are needed.

What we do

The Adaptation theme integrates research that includes analysis of current farming systems and how they are likely to change, identification of technologies and practices and understanding processes of institutional learning and adaptation. This is built upon the vision that to adapt farming systems to a 2030 world we need to:

Close the yield gap by effectively using current technologies, practices and policies in an adaptation context. We identify and evaluate promising adaptation options to quantify, through modeling approaches and sound field-based action research, their efficacy in relation to expected future climatic conditions.

Increase the bar by developing new ways to increase agricultural potential, especially to confront novel climates. We develop breeding strategies for supporting crop improvement that delivers farmers with varieties that can stand up to the many abiotic and biotic challenges of the future climate condition.

Enable policies and institutions, from the farm to national level, to ensure that change occurs. We investigate the social, institutional and policy environments required for promising adaptation options to function so that together they can be used to establish effective agricultural adaptation plans and strategies, at the national, regional and global level.