From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/10/03/act-now-to-diversify-crops-at-risk-say-scientists/
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, October 3, 2011
Farm chiefs have a narrowing chance to diversify vital crops at rising threat from drought, flood and pests brought by climate change, food researchers warned on Monday.
The world’s nearly seven billion people are massively dependent on a dozen or so crops that, thanks to modern agriculture, are intensively cultivated in a tiny number of strains, they said.
When climate change gets into higher gear, many of these strains could be crippled by hotter and drier — or conversely wetter — weather and exposed to insects and microbial pests that advance into new habitats.
“Farmers have always adapted, but the pace of change under climate change is going to be much greater than in the past. There’s going to be a real need to move fast,” Bruce Campbell, head of a research programme called Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), told AFP.
In a series of studies, the experts highlighted the risk for staples such as wheat, corn, bananas and cassava.
They described the example of the potato, whose starch is a vital nutrient to hundreds of millions of people.
Although it is a hardy tuber, the potato is vulnerable to heat stress, which curbs growth and starch formation.