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Strategies to Improve Crop Adaptation to Warmer and Drier Climates

Date:October 25, 2013 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm EDT
Location:Columbia University
Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory Campus
Monell Building, Room 205
Contact:For further information regarding this event, please contact IRI Seminar office by sending email to al2596@columbia.edu .

The Earth Institute's International Research Institute for Climate and Climate and Society is please to present "Strategies to Improve Crop Adaptation to Warmer and Drier Climates" with Dr. Matthew Reynolds, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Open to the public. The combined problems of climate change, population growth, and increased demands on a declining natural resource base, force scientists to push crop performance to its limits. Although new wheat lines, for example, delivered by the International Wheat Improvement Network (coordinated by CIMMYT) showed average worldwide genetic gains of 0.6-1% per year between 1995 and 2010, this is not sufficient to match future demand. While resource conservation strategies play a key role in crop management, genetic strategies include the following: 1) Determining the crop characteristics most likely to increase stress adaptation in target environments (traits such as deeper and more extensive root systems, transpiration efficiency, capacity to store and remobilize carbohydrates, expression of high and stable harvest index, etc.) 2) Exhaustive searches of genetic resources for easily selectable traits that encompass the aforementioned characteristics. To date over 70,000 germplasm bank accessions of the World Wheat Collection housed at CIMMYT have been screened. Earlier pilot studies identified Mexican landraces as sources of deep roots for example. Other more targeted approaches include characterization of panels identified using agro-geological data (Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy). 3) High throughput remote sensing to facilitate both the former as well as large scale progeny selection -using aerial spectral imaging platforms- permit hundreds of plots to be measured simultaneously for canopy temperature, hydration status, and photosynthetic and photo-protective pigments via thermal and multispectral imaging. 4) Strategic crossing among genetic resources and elite lines, an approach that has already led to release of a new generation of drought adapted lines by CIMMYT that performed well across a range of LDCs in 2010 and whose techniques are being adopted by NARS in South Asia. 5) Broadening crop genepools to harness stress adaptive traits from relatives still growing in the wild. Perhaps the most challenging in terms of breeding but more feasible with the advent of molecular tools that allow the easy tracking of specific genes of interest in progeny of wide crosses.

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