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Next-Gen corn - Adapting to climate shifts for higher yields

Strategies for developing corn varieties resilient to future climates


Corn, a cornerstone of global agriculture, faces significant challenges from climate change. Led by the University of Washington, a study integrates climate projections with plant simulations to forecast optimal traits for corn cultivation in 2050 and 2100.

Professor Abigail Swann highlights that rising temperatures and arid conditions will diminish corn yields, despite beneficial effects from increased CO2 levels. The study concludes that current corn varieties are ill-suited for future climates due to these adverse effects.

Analyzing diverse corn varieties, the research identifies characteristics pivotal for future success. Unlike current strains, future-adapted corn will optimize leaf growth alongside extended grain production periods, capitalizing on longer growing seasons and accelerated growth in warmer environments.

To validate these predictions, researchers advocate employing genetic techniques such as CRISPR to hasten breeding and assess new varieties under controlled conditions. This method expedites adaptation to climate change compared to conventional selective breeding.

The study's broader implications emphasize the imperative of proactive agricultural adaptation to sustain global food security amidst burgeoning populations and changing dietary habits. While the U.S. shifts towards plant-centric diets, global meat consumption rises, augmenting demand for corn.

Future endeavors aim to collaborate with breeders in developing resilient corn varieties and extend research to other vital food crops, supported by funding from entities like the National Science Foundation and USDA.

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