Climate Extremes and Crop Adaptation

In June 2009, a group of experts in climate science, crop modeling, and crop development gathered at Stanford University to discuss the major needs for successful crop adaptation to climate change. To focus discussion over the three day period, the meeting centered on just three major crops – rice, wheat, and maize – given that these provide the bulk of calories to most populations. The meeting also focused on two aspects of climate– extreme high temperatures and extreme low moisture conditions (i.e. drought) – that present substantial challenges to crops in current climate and are likely to become more prevalent through time. Other aspects of climate change such as more frequent flooding or saltwater intrusion associated with rising sea levels were not addressed, although they may also be important.

The current document is split into two sections:

  • a brief summary of material presented at the meeting on the current state of climate projections, crop modeling, crop genetic resources and breeding; and
  • the collective views of participants on major needs for future research and investment, which emerged from discussions over the three day meeting.

The main target audiences for the document are donor institutions seeking to invest in climate adaptation, and climate and crop scientists seeking to set research agendas. We intend the term donor institutions to include private foundations, governments, and inter‐governmental organizations such as the World Bank and United Nations. An underlying assumption of the Stanford meeting was that there is a real and growing need to identify specific investment opportunities that will improve food security in the face of climate change. This is reflected, for instance, by the recent G8 announcement of a $20B investment in food security, the expectation of additional resources for adaptation from the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, and the emphasis of the Obama administration on food and climate issues.