Current trends in population growth suggest that global food production is unlikely to satisfy future demand under predicted climate change scenarios unless rates of crop improvement are accelerated (or radical changes occur in patterns of human food consumption). The situation is generally more serious in less developed countries where agroecosystems are already fragile, investment in agriculture is limited, and climate change is predicted to have its most devastating effects. The following crop-oriented technical solutions can be implemented to increase food security:
• application of crop and land management practices that maximize sustainable pro ductivity from a given natural reso urce and permit the full genetic potential of cultivars to be realized;
• implementation of both management and breeding strategies to reduce GHG emissions from cropping systems - thereby mitigating negative impacts of agriculture on climate change - such as precision application of inputs and genetic enhancement of input-use efficiency;
• crop breeding with emphasis on rapid deployment of lines adapted to the harsher environments anticipated from climate change models, while improving genetic yield thresholds in general;
• systematic evaluation of genetic resources to better target their use in cultivar improvement;
• investment in characterizing target agro-ecosystems (taking into account cultivation, climatic, biotic and edaphic factors) to permit different models of genetic adaptation to be systematically evaluated;
• integrated use of research techniques (e.g. remote sensing for precision pheno-typing, networks of field operations, state-of-the-art molecular techniques, etc.) that will permit genome analysis to be more precisely linked to the adaptive responses of crops;
• determination of the theoretical limits to resource-use efficiency of cropping systems (including nutrients, water and light) to help establish realistic research goals when estimating potential productivity in future climate scenarios; this should take into account crop response and potential adaptation to extreme climatic events;
• monitoring and modelling the spread of diseases and pests in response to climatic factors to reduce crop losses and reduce the risk of epidemics; and • establishment of research consortia whereby interest in solving a common problem brings together complementary skills and research platforms.
In summary, the gap between current and achievable yields must be closed through breeding and natural resource management to reduce the risk of catastrophic food shortages.
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