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Genetic solutions through breeding counteract climate change and secure barley production in Australia

He, T.ORCID: 0000-0002-0924-3637, Angessa, T., Hill, C.B.ORCID: 0000-0002-6754-5553, Zhang, X.-Q., Telfer, P., Westcott, S. and Li, C. (2022) Genetic solutions through breeding counteract climate change and secure barley production in Australia. Crop Design, 1 (1). Article 100001.

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Climate changes threaten global sustainable food supply by reducing crop yield. Estimates of future crop production under climate change have rarely considered the capacity of genetic improvement in breeding high-yielding and stress-tolerant crop varieties. We believe that technological advancements and developing climate-resilient crop varieties may offset the adverse effects of climate change. In this study, we examined the historical record of barley breeding and yield, and the trends of climate changes over the past 70 years in Australia. We related the selection of fast development varieties to yield improvement, and revealed the genetic connections of fast development and yield potential through genome-wide association studies. Historical records show that Australia's barley yield has experienced a steady growth despite that the seasonal production window has been shortened due to increased risk of frost damage at flowering stage and terminal heat during maturity since the 1970s. The increase in yield is largely the result of higher yield capacity of the more recently developed varieties that develop faster to counteract the impact of increased terminal heat. We also show that the changing temperature may soon reach a critical point that dramatically changes the barley flowering behaviour to impact yield by pushing its growth beyond the seasonal production window to face increasing frost damage. For the first time, we provide evidence that the effects of climate change on crop production might be less severe than what is currently believed because the advancement of technologies and development of climate-resilient crop varieties may mitigate the adverse effect of climate change to some extent. The greater use of genetic techniques in crop breeding will play a vital role in sustainable global food production in the era of climate change.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Western Australian State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre
Western Crop Genetics Alliance
Publisher: Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Zhejiang University and Zhejiang University Press Co. Ltd.
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors
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