Conclusions

In terms of genetic improvement of crops, a number of research approaches can be adopted to help offset the negative effects of climate change. Multi-disciplinary breeding with a special focus on adaptation to warmer and drier environments should be the baseline. New genetic variation can be introduced into such programmes, for example, through interspecific hybridization with crop relatives, or by introducing genes of proven value from model species. Thorough characterization of target agroecosystems is essential such that different models of genetic adaptation can be systematically evaluated, taking into account climatic and edaphic factors as well as management practices. A more complete understanding of the environment will also help with gene discovery and deployment of QTLs for complex adaptive traits. Application of appropriate tools - molecular techniques, remote sensing for precision phenotyping, networks of field operations, etc. - will permit rapid genome analysis to be coupled to the adaptive response of crops. Determination of the theoretical limits to yield under water-limited and temperature-stressed environments will help to establish realistic research targets, while new research must consider how crops can maintain productivity in warmer climates without substantial sacrifices in water-use efficiency, as well as adapt to extreme climatic events such as sudden temperature spikes and combinations of stresses. Given that climate is in a state of flux, more extreme weather variation can be expected in the future, therefore new ideotypes should be evaluated for their relative yield stability, using realistic farmer conditions, under a full range of potential scenarios from optimal, well-managed environments to those with extreme climatic stresses.

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