Scientists behind doomsday seed vault ready the worlds crops for climate change

September 18th, 2008 - 3:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 18 (ANI): Scientists at the Global Crop Diversity Trust, who are the people behind the doomsday seed vault, are undertaking a major effort to search crop collections, from Azerbaijan to Nigeria, for the traits that could arm agriculture against the impact of future changes.

Traits, such as drought resistance in wheat, or salinity tolerance in potato, will become essential as crops around the world have to adapt to new climate conditions.

Climate change is having the most negative impact in the poorest regions of the world, already causing a decrease in yields of most major food crops due to droughts, floods, increasingly salty soils and higher temperatures.

Crop diversity is the raw material needed for improving and adapting food crops to harsher climate conditions and constantly evolving pests and diseases.

However, it is disappearing from many of the places where it has been placed for safekeepingthe worlds genebanks.

Compounding the fact that it is not well conserved is the fact that it is not well understood.

A lack of readily available and accurate data on key traits can severely hinder plant breeders efforts to identify material they can use to breed new varieties best suited for the climates most countries will experience in the coming decades.

The support provided by the Global Crop Diversity Trust will not only rescue collections which are at risk, but enable breeders and others to screen collections for important characteristics.

Our crops must produce more food, on the same amount of land, with less water, and more expensive energy, said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

This, on top of climate change, poses an unprecedented challenge to farming. There is no possible scenario in which we can continue to grow the food we require without crop diversity. Through our grants we seek, as a matter of urgency, to rescue threatened crop collections and better understand and conserve crop diversity, he added.

Through a competitive grants scheme, the Trust will provide funding for projects that screen developing country collectionsincluding wheat, chickpea, rice, barley, lentils, coconut, banana, maize, and sweet potatofor traits that will be essential for breeding climate-ready varieties.

These projects involve 21 agricultural research institutions in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Israel, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Syria.

Scientists will be screening chickpea and wheat collections in Pakistan for traits of economic importance for farmers; characterizing rare coconuts in Sri Lanka for traits of drought tolerance and tolerance to other pests and diseases; screening for salinity tolerance in sweet potatoes in Peru; and identifying drought-tolerant bananas in India. (ANI)

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