Rising temperatures around the world are affecting many food crops and according to a new study done by a Stanford University scientist, wheat will be particularly vulnerable.
David Lobell looked at nine years-worth of images captured by the MODIS Earth-observation satellite to analyze the growing season of wheat in the Ganges plain of India. What he found was that in the years with higher average temperatures, the wheat fields turned brown earlier meaning that they were no longer growing.
Previous studies have predicted that wheat yields would fall by about 30 percent by 2050 in places like India, but Lobell thinks that realistic yield losses could be about 50 percent greater than existing models show. That's a scary figure since other studies have shown a need for wheat yields to increase by 50 percent in order to feed a growing global population.
One solution is breeding for wheat plants that have bigger roots and are less stressed by dryer and warmer conditions. Another option is to breed for plants that are slower growing and can be planted earlier in the season. That way the wheat could be harvested before the high spring temperatures while retaining its hardiness. Scientists are already working on these solutions, but either approach will need to have a breakthrough soon to keep up with growing demand and warming temperatures.
via New Scientist
written by Ronald Brak, February 03, 2012
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