Breeding healthy vegetables in times of climate change
How plant breeding can help grow healthy food in a changing climate.
Farmers face many challenges growing our food, including diseases, pests and climate change. Our plant breeders use science to help farmers grow vegetables that thrive in dry conditions and have a natural resistance to pests and disease.
Vegetables that thrive in dry and hot conditions
By collecting and testing vegetables’ natural genetic diversity, we can breed vegetables that are especially adapted to drought and heat. We do this using traditional breeding techniques.
Sunblock for cauliflowers
Did you know that cauliflowers can get sunburnt? Most cauliflowers’ leaves need to be bent by hand to protect the head, also known as the curd, from the sun. We’ve bred cauliflowers that are naturally resistant to sun damage which makes this manual labor unnecessary – saving the farmer time and money. Plus, these seeds have a reliable growing period which makes it easier for the farmer to plan when the crop should be picked. This reduces food loss because he or she can supply the supermarket exactly when they need the cauliflower.
How good vegetable breeding can combat food loss
Insects and diseases that damage vegetables contribute significantly to food loss1. Thrips are insects that can cause a lot of damage to cabbages and onions, and transmit diseases that can cause discoloration and deformities in the produce. This contributes to food loss, because the consumer is less likely to buy vegetables that are damaged in this way.
Another area our scientists focus on is growing vegetables that are naturally resistant to fungi. Fusarium for instance is a soil fungus that damages a wide range of crops. This fungus produces mycotoxins that have been associated with human and animal health problems2. So it’s important to control this fungus in vegetables. We’re breeding vegetables, like cauliflower, squash and many others, that are resistant to Fusarium.
We continue to develop new traits in our vegetables to increase productivity and quality and provide the consumer with healthy food.
- World Resources Institute, Reducing Food Loss and Waste
- ScienceDirect, Fusarium
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