Plant Breeding and Climate Change

Approximately two billion people worldwide already live in water-stressed areas and that figure is expected to rise substantially as the effects of climate change further reduce water availability, which can also lead to increased soil salinity. Incorporating stress-adaptive traits into crops that already have a strong agronomic package will be vital to provide yield stability in the face of changing environments.

Plant breeding leads efforts to help producers overcome the enormous challenges posed by climate change through the creation of new seed varieties with improved genetics from germplasm exhibiting stress tolerance.

Major Field crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton and canola receive a lot more breeding attention and funding than minor crops with lower acreages.As climate change it may become necessary to switch to crops that are more suited to new conditions rather than focusing on adapting other crops to be more resilient to drought, cold, heat or whatever prevalent conditions emerge.


One of the most challenging aspects of adapting crops to climate change is maintaining genetic resistance to pests, diseases and weeds, which are all affected by rising temperatures and variations in humidity. Changing disease and pathogen distributions and increased movement of pathogens and pests across vast geographic distances all pose significant challenges to agriculture in changing climates.

Advances in technology have put many more tools into breeders’ hands. “Technologies like molecular markers and bioinformatics and other techniques are expediting the process of analyzing and assessing traits. It’s expected that breeding techniques will continue to play a role in advancing crop varieties and hybrids better adapted to abiotic and biotic stresses, as well as producing plants that can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by increasing nitrogen and CO2 input-use efficiency.


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