Advancements in plant breeding research have provided farmers seed varieties that help manage diseases, pests and other plant stressors. While much of the industry demand has been for varieties that are disease-resistant or pest-resistant, the changing climate will most likely increase demand for stress-resistant crop varieties that can also withstand drought or severe heat, according to a recent report from USDA Economic Research Service. As the report summarizes, “Climate change is likely to increase demand for new crop varieties with better resilience to stresses…the use of new genetic traits in crops has concentrated more on tolerance to pests and diseases than to stresses like heat and drought that are also expected to increase with climate change.”
Scientists in the wheat industry are already researching how the climate will affect future wheat crops. In an earlier blog post, we talked about a Kansas State University study that found in the coming decades at least one-quarter of the world’s wheat production will be lost to extreme weather from climate change if no adaptive measures are implemented. This research – one of several studies on the subject – will help scientists identify adaption strategies and develop more robust models that can help farmers globally select more weather-tolerant and resilient wheat varieties based on their location.
The expected future production challenges for farmers worldwide is one of the many reasons that collaboration to advance wheat research is critical. Since 2008, multiple private technology providers have announced increased investments in wheat breeding and their interest in partnering with public research programs. In order to meet the agriculture production challenges of tomorrow, we must invest in research today.