Climate change is already adding pressure to agricultural production. In their effort to meet global food needs, farmers are challenged with drought, flooding and excessive temperatures. But sustainable and efficient agricultural tools and practices can help them deal with erratic weather patterns. Plants are being created to handle the stress of drought, heat, flooding or salinity. And modern agricultural techniques are reducing carbon emissions – a key contributing factor to the greenhouse gases that are throwing the Earth’s thermostat out of balance.
Through biotechnology, crops can thrive in the harsh growing conditions influenced by climate change. For example, plant science researchers are developing drought-tolerant and water-efficient crops that can maintain and provide higher yields while saving precious water resources. They’re also creating plants that use nitrogen more efficiently, reducing the need for added fertilizer and thereby lessening greenhouse gas. Plus, new biotech crops are being developed to tolerate salinity, heat and provide yield stability in extremely wet climates.
Farmers are leading the way in reduction with thanks in part to herbicide-tolerant biotech crops. Known as conservation agriculture, this system of farming allows farmers to remove yield-robbing weeds using herbicides instead of multiple tillage passes with heavy machinery. That’s a huge savings in fuel. And because farmers aren’t tilling the land as much, a significant amount of carbon stays in soil where it can’t do damage.
By using innovative plant science technologies to increase yields on existing land, farmers are also under less pressure to convert carbon-rich forests and other natural habitats to farmland.
Climate change will also result in increased problems with insect-transmitted diseases. These changes will have major implications for crop protection and food security, particularly in developing countries where the need to increase and sustain food production is most urgent. Long-term monitoring of population levels and insect behavior, particularly in identifiably sensitive regions, may provide some of the first indications of a biological response to climate change.