Mitigating and adapting to climate change with roots, tubers and bananas
The International Potato Center (CIP) uses potatoes, sweetpotatoes and scientific innovations to maximize food security and nutrition in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and to mitigate the negative impact of climate change. CIP is the lead center in the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).Hundreds of millions of people in developing countries depend on potato, sweetpotato, cassava, yam and bananas for food security and income, as they can be grown in marginal conditions with few inputs. Cassava and sweetpotato are especially tolerant of drought, heat, and poor soil conditions. These crops can also complement grains in cropping systems to reduce risk and make more efficient use of resources. RTB is tapping the potential of root and tuber crops to reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
Roots and tubers: The seeds of recovery
Roots and tubers are resilient crops when disasters hit. In Philippines, where CIP works with national institutions, sweetpotatoes have played a crucial role in disaster recovery. When Typhoon Yolanda struck the country in 2013, beneath the fallen coconut trees, and in open fields, sweetpotatoes survived and boosted the local food supply until relief arrived.
In Mozambique, a country regularly struck by droughts, CIP developed drought-tolerant, pro-vitamin A, orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties that were distributed to over 134,000 households in a two-year effort to mitigate drought’s impact in five provinces.
Potato and sweetpotato varieties for climate change adaptation
Climate change’s effects vary depending upon location, but they could include hotter and drier conditions, increased rainfall, higher tides or new patterns in pest infestations, all of which jeopardize farming. While the losses for farmers may be profound, the secondary effects of climate change are also important.
CIP has a wealth of potato and sweetpotato varieties available (with nutritional and commercial qualities) that are disease-tolerant and adapted for harsh conditions such as drought, high salinity, low temperatures, and others.
Conservation of genetic resources aids development of climate-smart varieties
Biodiversity is threatened by desertification, deforestation, disease, erosion, urban sprawl, monoculture farming and climate change. Conserving the genetic resources of potato and sweetpotato has been a major priority of CIP since its founding in 1971. The Center’s genebank holds the largest collections of potato and sweetpotato germplasm in the world.
Scientists have screened thousands of those accessions of wild and cultivated species to identify resistance to pests and diseases, and tolerance to frost, heat, drought, and soil salinity. Breeders are using those traits to develop improved varieties with nutritional quality, such as the vitamin-A rich sweetpotatoes, and with better disease resistance and higher salt- and drought tolerance.
Material from CIP’s diverse germplasm collection is used by breeding programs in over 100 countries around the world.
Climate change and pests: Another threat to food security
Rising temperatures due to climate change will exacerbate pest problems, and the challenges of food security and agricultural sustainability, with losses in yield and crop quality. If pest control isn’t improved, crop losses could worsen and the use of agrochemicals increase, with the consequent negative impact on health and environment.
CIP conducts research and develops technological innovations, such as Insect Life Cycle Modeling (ILCYM), a software tool for assessing pest risks and planning for adaptation to climate change.
Climate change and agriculture: Closing the knowledge gaps through research
CIP breeders develop improved potato and sweetpotato varieties that tolerate drought and heat, and are resistant to crop diseases or insects whose range and intensity could increase with rising temperatures. CIP scientists investigate on how farmers cope with extreme weather conditions, such as by diversifying their crops, planting in stages, making greater use of native and improved varieties, planting their crops at higher altitudes, or strategic management of microclimatic niches. CIP also evaluates the use of innovative technologies such as UAVs for crop monitoring, or more efficient irrigation techniques and their interaction with other mitigation strategies.
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