Adaption to Climate Change: Climate Adaptive Breeding of Maize, Wheat and Rice

  • Dave Watson


The advent of climate change, especially the greater frequency of temperature extremes and both erratic and extreme precipitation, will increasingly challenge the ability of maize, wheat and rice agri-food systems to meet growing global demand for food and feed. The challenge to agri-food systems is threefold. First, increasing temperature (especially extreme temperature events) and reduced or erratic rainfall limits the ability of these crops to produce a harvestable product, especially in rain-fed and underdeveloped agri-food systems. Second, industrial agri-food systems are extremely energy intensive and, both directly and indirectly, produce a considerable amount of greenhouse gases, which further exacerbates climate change. Third, changes in temperature and rainfall will require adjustment to cropping geographies and integration of more drought and heat tolerant crops, especially in the predicted climate change hotspots. The good news is that there is significant genetic variation for heat and drought/submergence tolerance in the global maize, wheat and rice gene banks. Either through the application of conventional breeding or the use of new breeding techniques, this genetic diversity offers a way to ameliorate most of the immediate climate change challenges. However, in order to ensure a continuous pipeline of climate-resilient staple crops, it is essential to maintain adequate funding for blue sky and upstream crop breeding, and capacity building of small to medium-sized (SME) seed companies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Central America.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.CGIAR Research Program on MaizeInternational Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)TexcocoMéxico

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