FOCUS ON WHEAT
Many regions of the world already suffer from the impact of global warming.
Water stress: The flowering period is very sensitive to temperatures above 30 degrees. In producing countries, this flowering period occurs during “cold” seasons, which are more and more irregular.
India is one of the largest producers of wheat in the world. Indian scientists have studied the consequences of temperature rise. Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), estimates that a 0.5 ºC increase in winter could cause a 17% loss in wheat production per hectare, whereas a 2 ºC increase is expected in the 20 years to come.
In the last few decades, it has rained less in southern Germany, and the weak rainfall quickly evaporated. In 2013, Bavaria did not have a spring - a dry summer followed a cold winter. Loss in wheat production has sometimes reached 70 %.
Meteorological phenomenon half a world away can trigger an increase in the world market price and an extreme food crisis (for example, a drought in Russia similar to the one in 2010 that almost caused an increase in the cost of baguettes – a type of bread - in Europe).
World over, it is necessary to adapt to this situation and sow wheat early, but the latter will be vulnerable to a bad springtime.
Some solutions: Research of new plant varieties
Some farmers turn to winter hardy grain: emmer (“amidonnier”, a sub-species of grain belonging to the genus of wheat crops) and spelt (a grain close to the wheat crop). But, the yield is poor.
The Bavarian institute for agricultural studies ran tests to know whether wheat from the Near East could become acclimatised (these wheat crops have a longer ‘head’ that can absorb morning dew). But they are used to dry and nutrient-poor soils. Faced with higher rainfall and nutrient-rich soils, they are becoming diseased.Hybridization tests were carried out with barley (more drought-resistant) and wheat.
But these plants will have to face new circumstances in 2050.
The Thünen Brunswick Institute for Biodiversity (Lower Saxony) subjects plants to the conditions that they will have to face in 2050: double the rate of CO2 and temperatures higher than 30 ºC. Although an increase in CO2 will stimulate growth, the rise in temperature can be harmful to plants.
Diversifying the range of plants with millets is an add-on security.
The present diet based on wheat will depend on price fluctuation in the world market, which will aggravate the condition of countries already weakened. It is important from now to turn to indigenous wheat varieties. And to combine them with millets that can serenely face rise in temperature and amount of CO2.