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Ancient wheat resists heat and drought

10-04-2010 09:30 BJT

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Scientists in Mexico have discovered ancient wheat varieties, that can resist, drought and heat in today's weather conditions. Researchers are crossing the plants, with other strains, to grow different types of corn and wheat, more resistant to climate change for future generations.

A seed bank which could hold the key to saving some crops from global warming.

Scientists in Mexico have found that ancient wheat and corn varieties have particular drought- and heat-resistant traits.

So, researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in El Batan are developing new strains which they can cross with plants grown from the ancient seeds.

They hope these plants can fight off the ill effects of rising temperatures, says scientist Matthew Reynolds.

Scientist Matthew Reynolds said, "These wild relatives have been around for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. And so, of course, they have experienced climate changes that are probably miniscule compared to what we're anticipating will occur within the next hundred or a thousand years."

Mexico is considered to be a birthplace for corn, which is a staple for Mexicans.

Native species dating back to long before the Spanish conquest, still survive.

And the new plants are inheriting traits from the old seeds such as longer roots that suck up water and a capacity to store more nutrients in their stalks.

The center's research director, Marianne B?nzinger says science has to anticipate the inevitable temperature increases.

Research Director Marianne Banzinger said, "Climate change is really happening and we need to be concerned, we need to be concerned that we cannot change agriculture overnight. So we need to look ahead what is happening in 10, 15, 20 years when our children had grown up and we need to start to invest now in those solutions to make sure that we have them with farmers when they are needed."

Seed breeders say they are the first line of defense in protecting farmers from climate change, widely expected to heat the planet between 1 and 3 degrees over the next 50 years.

And using the innate information found in ancient seeds is one way of ensuring future food supplies.

Editor:Zhang Jingya |Source: CNTV

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