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Targeting Research to Address Climate Change Challenges to Agriculture

Agriculture and climate change are inextricably linked—crop yield, biodiversity, water use, and soil health are directly affected by a changing climate. Climate change is affecting the Earth’s temperature, precipitation, and hydrological cycles, resulting in negative impacts on U.S. and global agricultural systems. In addition, the interaction of climate factors often decreases plant productivity, which can result in price increases for many important food crops.

Meeting the challenge of climate change will require targeted investments in crop science research. To identify the role that crop science research will play in adapting global agricultural systems to climate change and other major societal issues, the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) has identified a set of Grand Challenges.

The CSSA Grand Challenges poignantly identify critical research that is needed to expedite agricultural adaptation to climate change:

- Crop adaptation to climate change
Increase the speed with which agriculture can adapt to climate change by using crop science to address abiotic stresses such as drought and heat.
- Resistance to biotic stresses
Increase durability of resistance to biotic stresses that threaten food security in major crops.
- Crop management systems
Create novel crop management systems that are resilient in the face of changes in climate and rural demographics.

“The Crop Science Society of America has developed the Grand Challenges to respond to the pressing need to respond to changes in climate. By developing new or improved crop varieties and field testing these varieties in adapted cropping systems, we can adapt agriculture to new climate pressures,” says CSSA President Dr. Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin.

Tools for Adaptation
Crop breeding for development of new climate tolerant crop varieties is a key tool for adapting agriculture to a changing climate. History and current breeding experience indicate that natural biodiversity within crops has allowed for plant adaptation to different conditions, providing clear evidence that plant breeding has great potential to aide in the adaptation of crops to climate change.

Cropping system development is another tool that can help agriculture adapt. Cropping systems establish how crops are grown, by determining the arrangement of crops in time and space and the way in which they are planted (density), fertilized, irrigated, weeded, and harvested. For example, the use of crop mixtures that have several crops growing at one time can help systems exhibit greater durability during periods of high water or heat stress.

For more information on CSSA’s Grand Challenges, please visit:

CSSA is a sponsor of the Congressional Briefing, "Climate Change and Agriculture: Food and Farming in a Changing Climate" on June 16 in Washington, DC. There, experts on climate modeling, cropping systems and crop breeding, and agriculture and natural resource economics as they present information about how agriculture can adapt to a changing climate. To learn more visit:

A peer-reviewed international journal of agriculture and natural resource sciences, Agronomy Journal is published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy, with articles relating to original research in soil science, crop science, agroclimatology and agronomic modeling, production agriculture, and software. For more information visit:

The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.

CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives.

Sara Uttech | Newswise Science News
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