Using climate information to support crop breeding decisions and adaptation in agriculture
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Falloon P, Bebber D, Bryant J, Bushell M, Challinor AJ, Dessai S, Gurr S, Koehler AK. 2015. Using climate information to support crop breeding decisions and adaptation in agriculture. World Agriculture 5(1):25-43.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/67234
Population growth in the next few decades will increase the need for food production, while the yields of major food crops could be impacted by the changing climate and changing threats from pests and pathogens. Crop breeding, both through conventional techniques, and GM assisted breeding could help meet these challenges, if adequately supported by appropriate information on the future climate. We highlight some of the major challenges for crop breeders and growers in the coming decades, and describe the main characteristics of crop breeding techniques and other adaptation options for agriculture. We review recent uses of climate information to support crop breeding decisions and make recommendations for how this might be improved. We conclude that there is significant potential for breeders to work more closely with climate scientists and crop modellers in order to address the challenges of climate change. It is not yet clear how climate information can best be used. Fruitful areas of investigation include: provision of climate information to identify key target breeding traits and develop improved success criteria (e.g. for heat/drought stress); identification of those conditions under which multiple stress factors (for example, heat stress, mid-season drought stress, flowering drought stress, terminal drought stress) are important in breeding programmes; use of climate information to inform selection of trial sites; identification of the range of environments and locations under which crop trials should be performed (likely to be a wider range of environments than done at present); identification of appropriate duration of trials (likely to be longer than current trials, due to the importance of capturing extreme events); and definition of appropriate methods for incorporating climate information into crop breeding programmes, depending on the specific needs of the breeding programme and the strengths and weaknesses of available approaches. Better knowledge is needed on climate-related thresholds important to crop breeders, for example on the frequency and severity of extreme climate events relevant to the product profile, or to help provide tailored climate analyses (particularly for extreme events). The uncertainties inherent in climate and impact projections provide a particular challenge for translating climate science into actionable outcomes for agriculture. Further work is needed to explore relevant social and economic assumptions such as the level and distribution of real incomes, changing consumption patterns, health impacts, impacts on markets and trade, and the impact of legislation relating to conservation, the environment and climate change.