Conclusions Prospects

Climate change poses both threats and opportunities to crop production. Even where it is possible to escape any effects of climate change by altering spatial or temporal patterns of production, genetic improvement aimed at improving crop performance will occur and have an environmental foot print. Both conventional and biotechnologi-cal approaches are necessary to decrease the impact of agricultural production by increasing the efficiency of production, minimizing storage losses and decreasing GHG emissions by reducing the need for energy-intensive inputs like N. Considerable improvements can be made using conventional approaches, especially if they exploit the widest range of germplasm, including mutant populations. However, it is far from certain that the necessary improvements can be made quickly enough to keep pace with the changing environment or the political pressures to decrease input-related greenhouse gas emissions. The recent explosion in biological data has provided us with a much better understanding of many of the processes involved in the component traits that underlie complex traits such as yield and abiotic stress tolerance. Currently much of this information has only been described for individual model plants like Arabidopsis. There is therefore an urgent need to transfer the technology to crop plants grown in the field. In many, but not all cases, the appropriate technology is available but the remaining hurdles require sustained investment. Importantly exploitation of the scientific knowledge will require society to adopt a more realistic approach to risk analysis and embrace the new technologies that can ensure sustainable food security as climate changes.

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