Identification Of Researchable Priorities

Researchable priorities are region-specific, and they are defined in great measure by physiographic, soil, climate, socio-cultural, economic, and political factors. Several major criteria that can be used to identify key researchable priorities are discussed below.

• Probable impacts of climate change on food production. What is the current status of food supply and demand for individual nations and for the world, and how might it change because of climate changes? Current information suggests that climate change impacts on food supply and demand vary across ecoregions. Thus, it will be important to identify regions that may become food insecure and to formulate research and development strategies to address the potential problem. In addition to direct impacts on productivity, climate change may also affect food security indirectly by increasing postharvest losses, and by reducing the availability of key production inputs such as water. Appropriate solutions may be to increase the efficiency of water use and increase soil and water conservation. Crop yields may be affected by higher grain sterility resulting from thermal damage due to increased temperatures. This may require appropriate breeding work to create more heat-resistant seed varieties.

• Soil C dynamics and soil quality. The relationship between these two factors is very strong. The soil C pool will probably decline in regions where the mean temperature increases, and/or the mean precipitation decreases. A decline in the soil C pool will increase erosion probabilities, degrade soil structure, reduce inherent soil fertility, and decrease overall productivity. For regions at risk, it is important to identify land use and management strategies that will nullify the adverse impacts of climate change, maintain or enhance soil C pools, and sustain or improve soil quality. This is an ambitious agenda, especially for regions with resource-poor farmers who cannot afford the inputs required to adopt the recommended management practices.

Understanding the magnitude and direction of the three-way interaction among climate change, soil C sequestration, and food security is crucial to addressing the global issue. These interactive effects are specific to ecoregions/biomes, and require a holistic and multidisciplinary approach in order to develop specific studies with results that can be scaled up to watershed, regional, and global levels. A great need exists for more local level studies based on analytical methods used for larger-scale analyses.

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