Seeds developed over thousands of years may help farmers adapt to climate change

Seeds developed over thousands of years may help farmers adapt to climate change
01 February 2023

The seed bank of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Lebanon demonstrates their importance for food production by developing seeds that can adapt in rising temperatures caused by global warming.

The researchers’ team, led by Mariana Yazbek, have spent more than 40 years in Lebanon collecting seeds from crops and wild plants of the Middle East and other parts of the world. Although ICARDA works in several countries, Lebanon remains as one of the biggest gene banks in the world.

This seed bank stores up to 120,000 varieties of legumes, barley, wheat and other seeds that are essential for the human diet. Mariana Yazbek calls it “an insurance policy for the humanity” – their team collects nutrient rich and tough plant seeds, in case of such catastrophic events like nuclear war or other disasters.

ICARDA's work has already helped countries with hot and dry climates - they developed a variety of for year-round planting in Asia and Africa. Now even the wealthier nations are interested to work with ICARDA because of the climate change effects approaching them.  France and Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, U.K. and Italy already collaborated with them.

As temperatures rise, European countries are looking for seeds that can adapt to the global warming and even challenge it. For instance, Fouad Maalouf, a legume breeder, says that lentils and fava beans’ crops can control carbon dioxide emissions, which helps to the climate changes become more sustainable.

The work of ICARDA even reached the US  - new crops, more suitable for the extreme weathers, were introduced into crop rotations of Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. One seed of wheat was found to be resistant to the Hessian fly, that is widespread in warmer regions. Discoveries like this can help us adapt to the climate change.

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