A NEW international crop network is needed to tackle risks to food security, according to a group of scientists who co-authored a letter published in the prestigious Science journal.
Demands on food crops are being stretched as never before by climate change and population growth.
Increasingly variable climates have reduced harvest reliability while droughts, storms and floods are expected to become more intense.
The Global Crop Improvement Network to should be used to build cooperation across all major crops and environments, the scientists said.
“We understand how to make crops more resilient to heat and drought, but we’re at a point where we need to accelerate our work,” said wheat breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Matthew Reynolds, who co-authored the report.
The United Nations reports 795 million poor people do not get enough food to eat. Climate change’s impacts on agriculture is a major factor in the growth of poverty. The number of poor people is expected to grow by between 35m and 122m.
The scientists said harvest variability will increase price pressure on people who spend most of their money on food and a new research approach was urgent.
“High transaction costs and instability of crop funding have hamstrung urgently needed research,” Dr Reynold said.
They aim standardise data and phenotyping techniques to best practises, so information can be shared worldwide and to encourage researchers to take cutting edge lab research into the field.
Crop trials are often conducted in the wrong place due to “historical, financial or political reasons, not because of current practical needs”, Dr Reynolds said.
“Since these problems are transnational in nature, a more global network could accelerate our efforts while increasing efficiency and helping to avoid duplication,” Dr Reynolds said.