Hans Joachim Braun Gary Atlin and Thomas Payne

Abstract

Plant breeding, using the combined potential of conventional, molecular and genetically modified technologies, will provide cultivars with greatly enhanced nutrient and water-use efficiency, enhanced tolerance to heat and drought, resistance to diseases and appropriate end-use and nutritional quality, and, possibly most important, increased ability to cope with the increasing extremes in temperature and precipitation occurring at one location over years. Modern crop cultivars developed by seed companies, international crop research centres and national breeding programmes often exhibit very wide geographical adaptation, as well as broad adaptation to the range of environmental and management conditions that occur within and between a target population of environments, or megaenvironments. To identify such cultivars, multi-location testing done by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) remains the most efficient system. International evaluation networks based on exchange of and free access to germplasm and multi-location testing are therefore a cornerstone in the strategies and efforts to develop wheat, rice and maize germplasm that is adapted to the increasingly variable growing conditions encountered due to global climate change. Information from such trials must be combined with information from managed stress trials. Wide performance adaptation is essential to respond to global climate change, to the vagaries of spatial heterogeneity within farmers' fields and their production input management efficacies, and from unpredictable temporal climatic seasonal variability.

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