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The key to agricultural success in the face of climate change


Published: 06/27/2016

by Arielle Duke

“If we're going to feed nine billion people by 2050 with the effects of climate change looming, we're going to need all the tools at our disposal,” says Affleck.

We're in for some hot temperatures in 2016 according to the World Meteorological Organization, which predicts it will be the hottest year on record.

Organizations and governments around the world are working together to tackle climate change. One of the industries that will feel the effects of changing climate conditions in a big way is agriculture. As temperatures rise and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods become more regular, farmers face more unpredictable and difficult growing conditions.

According to Ian Affleck, managing director of science and regulatory affairs for plant biotechnology at CropLife Canada, plant science technology will be an important part of helping farmers around the world to produce enough food to feed the growing population as climate change continues.

“Without the help of tools like pesticides and biotech crops the production of some of the world's most important crops like wheat, rice and corn could drop significantly, which would have a devastating impact on global food security,” says Affleck.

He says that new varieties of crops developed through plant biotechnology will help. Both heat and drought-tolerant crops are in the works, with drought-tolerant corn already being planted.

“Science is also helping us develop nitrogen-efficient crops that allow farmers to reduce their inputs while still producing a healthy, abundant crop,” says Affleck.

Affleck also points to the importance of crop protection products that help farmers protect their crops from new pests and diseases that move into new geographical areas. He adds that pesticides and biotech crops together enable farmers to adopt conservation tillage practices, which mean they don't need to go over their fields with machinery as often to control weeds. This improves soil health and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

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