Washington, Feb 20:
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 taken, says a new collaborative study done by Indian American professor Vara Prasad.
Wheat yields are projected to fall by six percent for each degree Celsius the temperature rises if no measures to adapt to extreme weather fluctuations are taken.
Based on the 2012-2013 wheat harvest of 701 million tons worldwide, the resulting temperature increase would result in 42 million tons less produced wheat.
“It is pretty severe. The projected effect of climate change on wheat is more than what has been forecast. That is challenging because the world will have to at least double our food supply in the next 30 years if we’re going to feed 9.6 billion people,” said Vara Prasad, professor of crop ecophysiology and director of USAID Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab at Kansas State University.
The findings are likely to help scientists develop more robust models that can help farmers globally select more weather-tolerant and resilient wheat varieties based on their location.
For the study, Vara and his team tested 30 wheat crop models against field experiments from around the world.
The study was conducted in areas where the average temperature of the growing season ranged from 15 to 32 degrees Celsius.
“Simply looking at the average temperature does not really show us anything because it is the extremities that are more detrimental to crops,” Prasad noted.
Increasing temperatures are shortening the time frame that wheat plants have to mature and produce full heads for harvest, resulting in less grain produced from each plant.
Currently, the team is using growth chambers and heats tents to quantify the effects of temperature.
The data will help in refining the crop models so that they can be more accurate in predicting wheat responses.
The study appeared in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. IANS