The biggest challenge in preparing crops for climate change is knowing what to prepare them for. Even within agricultural regions, the effects of global warming will vary.
HELP WHEAT EVOLVE
Consider Kansas, the source of a fifth of America's wheat. Parts of eastern Kansas are now 20 percent wetter than they were in 1900. Rainfall in western Kansas remains largely unchanged, and the region could become much drier over the next century. Meanwhile, short-term fluctuations are becoming more extreme. Last year, despite the long-term increase in rainfall in the area, the state placed every county in southeast Kansas under drought warning or drought emergency.
Stephen Jones, a professor of crop and soil sciences at Washington State University, says it's possible to stabilize wheat yields against an increasingly capricious climate by developing new wheat strains—each one adapted to a specific hardship—and then planting as many of those varieties as possible. Jones searches for drought-, disease- and flood-tolerant wheat strains that were grown in Washington a century ago (and which fell out of favor because they didn't consistently produce large yields) and breeds them with modern, high-yield varieties. Farmers sow the resulting seeds and, at the end of the season, collect the seeds from the best-performing plants to use for next year's crop. In as little as eight years, this process creates new wheat strains. And in a 2010 test in Washington's Douglas County, one of these new wheat strains outperformed all 59 competitors, including entries from genetic-engineering giants Monsanto and Syngenta.
BREED RICE WITH WEEDS
As carbon dioxide concentrations rise, so will rice yields—but the weeds that grow alongside rice plants, competing with them for water and nutrients, will grow ever faster, threatening the long-term sustainability of rice farming. The good news, says Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is that those weeds are so closely related to rice that breeding them together could yield new strains of rice tailored to a carbon-rich atmosphere.
Ziska's group begins by studying weeds, looking for characteristics that are correlated with their ability to process CO2 so efficiently. Next, they work with researchers at Cornell University to identify the genetic markers associated with those traits. The researchers will then breed weeds that carry those desirable genetic markers with modern, high-yield rice, producing strains of rice that can outcompete weeds as CO2 levels rise.
Ziska can identify the traits he needs and carry out the necessary genetic screening in as little as 18 months, but the full plant-development process—which includes studying real-world variables ranging from the ideal spacing between rows to the insect-sensitivity of these new rice varieties—could take another 5 to 10 years. Eventually, Ziska says, a concerted effort to cross weeds with modern rice could increase yields by 20 to 40 percent.
Large yields and high calorie content have made corn the most popular and most heavily subsidized crop in America. That's an increasingly urgent problem. In 2010, corn production consumed nine million tons of fertilizer and led to greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to 42 million tons of CO2—and corn isn't even something we can easily eat. "The digestibility of unprocessed corn to humans isn't very high," says Jerry Hatfield, a plant physiologist with the USDA. "We have to put it through processing of some sort, whether that happens in a factory or an animal." Set those problems aside, and a deal-breaker remains: modern corn is more sensitive to heat than any other major crop, and attempts to create drought- and heat-resistant corn through genetic modification are still unproven. A recent study found that a 3.6°F increase in global temperatures could make corn prices twice as volatile.
All of which is why many experts advocate replacing corn with a portfolio of hardier, more nutritious and more efficient food sources. Wheat production generates less than half the fossil-fuel emissions of corn and returns 63 percent more protein. Other crops actually give back to the land. Chickpeas and peanuts contain twice as much protein as corn, and they increase the nutrient content of soil.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the author of Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us.
So the Earth is Suddenly shifting on it's axis 5 degrees or land is shifting Elevation rapidy to envoke Climate (geography) Change?
I mean weather variabiity does suck with it being Cold and damp with Snow on Mauna Kea in early October and Super hot hays in mid July instead of mid august,but I STILL live in a Tropical Climate(Geography) in a Rain Forest(Ecolgy/Enviroment)
As far as food production I see hydropnics farming as a better solution as you can stick those in the super apartments on any level and always control the growing enviroment
Is there still not significant technical hurdles to achieving large scale staple crop production using hydroponics? Economics of scale?
Im curious because I would have thought such a thing would have been possible a decade ago already.
Warzones, there is still quite a bit of development to be done in crop hydroponics. Some plants (like lettuce and tomatoes) take to it very well; others do not. These don't seem to be insurmountable issues, though -- I think there just hasn't been a lot of investment in finding ways to compete with soil farming for those crops. But if soil farming starts to fail, the demand for hydroponic methods will increase, and I have no doubt the problems will be solved.
Not hydroponics- that just requires more chemical fertilizer.
Aquaponics is the key! Google it. Raise plants with fish. 1/10 of the water of conventional farming. I eat veggies every day grown in gravel with NO fertilizer. And at the end of the season, I can eat the fish.
Fisherman, that is a stable strategy, and one that could be useful for when we have to live underwater (joking of course) but what would be more useful is using plants that grow in the region, ones that know how to survive the climates. The plant grows to the climate, not the human forcing the plant to be on an IV to survive where it shouldn't. It's like trying to grow mangoes in Antarctica, a waste of time and resources
as Billy explained I didnt know that a stay at home mom able to get paid $7613 in a few weeks on the computer. have you read this webpage NuttyRich.com
need to cover your assets , dirt farmers grow cotton, linen, and flax to name the ones i use.
what u feedin' them fish ? growing your own fish food ?
locally grown is wonderful , but most places can't grow all diffrent foods needed to be healthy or all the time . we need to eat every day. so what you are proposing is Trucking food around the country ? Maybe Shipping around the World ? How novel. we could move people to where the food is grown. All 7 billion of us.