Climate Change and Plant Breeding

The world is changing and the climate with it. As we look back over numerous crop years, the good and the bad, the wet and dry, we see changes. It is too difficult on a local level to predict the weather of an upcoming crop season, even if larger global trends are seen.

Below are some quotes from 2011 and 2012 that speak of doom and gloom in the future for crops unless urgent work toward adaptation takes place. In reality, the adaptation of our crop varieties is Always taking place. Every year in oat breeding for instance, a new 10 to 12 year breeding/development cycle begins again. All oat breeding early generation genetic material is subjected to the climate, good or bad,… All the time. If there are changes to the climate, noticeable to us or not, the plants that are part of the breeding program are responding and the best are being selected. The breeding process is an excellent tool for adaptation in all our crops. And yes, it is true that the weeds are adapting too.

The Western Producer – December 22nd, 2011 – Sean Pratt

“Chicago – Farmers can expect a continued trend toward wetter and warmer growing seasons and more weather volatility in the years ahead, according to two American weather experts.

“If you’re going to be farming in the future, your experience with weather and climate are going to be different than anybody who has been farming the last 30 to 40 years,” said Charlie Walthall, national program leader for climate change at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

“Crops are not being bred to take advantage of the additional carbon dioxide in the air, but weeds are thriving under those conditions..”


The Manitoba Co-operator – January 5th, 2012 – Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer

“We have not bred the variety of crops to take advantage of higher carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Walthall said.

“Cary Fowler, executive director of Global Crop Diversity Trust says: ‘I don’t think that people have begun to grapple with the enormity of the problem (of climate change)…agricultural crop adaptation really isn’t even on the agenda. All our efforts at the macro-level are clearly going to fail as the crops die in the field.’”

Climate Change and Plant Breeding