Food crops in a changing climate
Wheeler, T. R., Challinor, A. J., Slingo, J. M. and Hoskins, B. J. (2005) Food crops in a changing climate. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society B, Special Is. 1983–1989. ISSN 0962-8436
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2005.1755
Changes in both the mean and the variability of climate, whether naturally forced, or due to human activities, pose a threat to crop production globally. This paper summarizes discussions of this issue at a meeting of the Royal Society in April 2005. Recent advances in understanding the sensitivity of crops to weather, climate and the levels of particular gases in the atmosphere indicate that the impact of these factors on crop yields and quality may be more severe than previously thought. There is increasing information on the importance to crop yields of extremes of temperature and rainfall at key stages of crop development. Agriculture will itself impact on the climate system and a greater understanding of these feedbacks is needed. Complex models are required to perform simulations of climate variability and change, together with predictions of how crops will respond to different climate variables. Variability of climate, such as that associated with El Niño events, has large impacts on crop production. If skilful predictions of the probability of such events occurring can be made a season or more in advance, then agricultural and other societal responses can be made. The development of strategies to adapt to variations in the current climate may also build resilience to changes in future climate. Africa will be the part of the world that is most vulnerable to climate variability and change, but knowledge of how to use climate information and the regional impacts of climate variability and change in Africa is rudimentary. In order to develop appropriate adaptation strategies globally, predictions about changes in the quantity and quality of food crops need to be considered in the context of the entire food chain from production to distribution, access and utilization. Recommendations for future research priorities are given.