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From New Beans to Ancient Plants, Drought-busting Crops Take Root

19:00 EST 7 Mar 2017 | Meridian Institute

This article focuses on the growing race to find and improve drought-resistant crops. While research on such crops has increased, and scientists are breeding and crossing seeds to make them drought-tolerant, major obstacles exist. "Getting new crop varieties into the hands of a large number of farmers quickly is the challenge," said Robert Asiedu, the head of biotechnology and genetic improvement at the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). "It can be five to 10 years before large quantities of new varieties reach farmers... That's the main bottleneck now." But, say experts, it is crucial that farmers begin growing drought-resistant crops, as climate change means farmers are likely to experience more frequent drought and erratic rainfall events. The article highlights several drought-tolerant crops and methods farmers around the world are using to combat drought, including: intercropping of various crops, or growing two or more crops together; growing cowpeas and chickpeas, both of which are drought-resistant; planting early maturing crops; growing ancient plants; and, growing new maize and bean varieties, including genetically modified corn that has DNA traits that allow it to thrive in drought conditions. "It is a priority in all the research centres to develop these new varieties of crops," said Tito Diaz, the subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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