Cancel the famine alarm! Temperature resilient crops now an 'achievable dream'

One of the most common disaster scenarios that have been pushed by climate alarmists is a reduction in crop yields and/or outright crop failure in the future. Now, it seems that won’t be something they’ll have to worry about. Of course, we haven’t been worried about it so far, because crop yields have been increasing worldwide in spite of warming. But, to get there, some genetic tweaking will have to be done, and the irrational greenies would rather starve than eat GMO crops. Perhaps that’s natural selection at work.

Graph by Willis Eschenbach:


Breeding temperature-resilient crops is an “achievable dream” in one of the most important species of commercially-cultivated plants, according to a new study.

The vision of crop improvement in the face of climate change is outlined in research by the John Innes Centre which establishes a genetic link between increased temperature and the problem of “pod shatter” (premature seed dispersal) in oilseed rape.

Research by the team led by Dr Vinod Kumar and Professor Lars Østergaard, reveals that pod shatter is enhanced at higher temperature across diverse species in the Brassicaceae family which also includes cauliflower, broccoli and kale.

This new understanding brings a step closer the prospect of creating crops that are better adapted to warmer temperatures a step closer.

Dr Vinod Kumar, a co-author of the paper explained the significance of the findings:

“It’s almost as if there is a thermostat that controls seed dispersal, or pod shatter. As we learn how it works, we could in the future ‘rewire’ it so seed dispersal does not happen at the same pace at higher temperatures

“This piece of the puzzle, coupled with the use of advanced genetic tools means that developing temperature-resilient crops becomes an achievable dream.”

Controlling seed dispersal, or “pod shatter” is a major issue for farmers of oilseed rape worldwide, who lose between 15-20% of yield on average per year due to prematurely dispersed seeds lost in the field.

The study set out to find out if temperature increases had a direct influence on pod shatter in oilseed rape, and how this is controlled by genetics.

“Over the last two decades, scientists have identified the genes that control pod shatter. However, it is not until now that we begin to understand how their activity is affected by the environment, and in this case temperature,” explained Professor Lars Østergaard.

To study the effects of temperature on seed dispersal, Dr Xinran Li, a postdoctoral researcher, monitored fruit development in Arabidopsis, a model plant related to the important Brassicaceae crops, at three different temperatures 17, 22 and 27 degrees centigrade.

This showed that stiffening of the cell wall at the tissue where pod shatter takes place is enhanced by increasing temperature leading to accelerated seed dispersal.

Dr. Li demonstrated that this was true not only for Arabidopsis, but across the Brassicaceae family, including oilseed rape.

The team went on to establish the genetic mechanism which organises the plant response to higher temperatures. Previous studies have shown that pod shatter is controlled by a gene called INDEHISCENT (IND). This study reveals that IND is under the control of a thermo-sensory mechanism in which a histone called H2A.Z is a key player.

The report concludes: “Our findings introduce an environmental factor to the current knowledge, which provide alternative avenues for crop improvement in the face of climate change.”

The paper Temperature modulates tissue-specification programme to control fruit dehiscence in Brassicaceae which appears in the journal Molecular Plant also identifies the genetic pathways behind the temperature sensing mechanism which coordinates the crop’s response to rises in temperature.

Temperature modulates tissue-specification program to control fruit dehiscence in Brassicaceae: authors Xin-Ran Li, Joyita Deb, S. Vinod Kumar and Lars Østergaard.


The full report: link to paper


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February 12, 2018 12:44 pm

Cooling effects are more of a concern for me than warming.

Reply to  Ed
February 12, 2018 1:09 pm

Dalton Minimum coming…?

Reply to  Ed
February 12, 2018 8:48 pm

Yes, cooling is a worry, but there is a slight trade off, when it is not so hot and the water does not evaporate away as rapidly as when warmer. That said, the crops currently are doing great due to human efforts as it cannot be due to temperature, it being essentially constant.

Reply to  Ed
February 13, 2018 10:52 am

Agreed. So, can these (and other) crops be engineered to deal with cold also?

February 12, 2018 12:53 pm

It’s obvious, rising CO2 fertilization increases crop yields.
For many crops, 900 to 1100 ppm CO2 and several degrees more Fo would be desirable.
Wonderful! Increased yields W/O GMO!

Reply to  Enginer
February 12, 2018 9:19 pm

Here’s an additional thought, these annual Brassica species have an inbuilt mechanism to take advantage of the warm growing period by dispersing their seeds earlier. Imagine it from the plants perspective ‘hey little dudes, if we push hard we might get 2 generations of growth in instead of just one!’
I’ve seen it occur in other annuals on more than a few occasions when conditions are ideal.
It’s a feature not a flaw.

Ross King
February 12, 2018 1:00 pm

“….. irrational greenies would rather starve than eat GMO crops. Perhaps that’s natural selection at work.”
Bring on the GMO crops!!!!

Reply to  Ross King
February 12, 2018 1:30 pm

You can’t put all that information into a public forum like this!
You’re destroying the very core of Lysenkoism before it even gets another toehold in agriculture!
Genes don’t really exist! Don’t you know that? You can’t just talk about canceling the famine alarm!!
(All the above is included in my /sarc warning!)

Reply to  Sara
February 12, 2018 1:58 pm

Incoming military grade sarcasm.
Women and children to the fallout shelters.

February 12, 2018 1:06 pm

It merely demonstrates that man is a clever creature and all doomsday scenarios neglect the ability to adapt via technology and knowledge are wrong.
It always seems that it is the least clever among us who are first to raise the doom alarm.

Jon Jewett
February 12, 2018 1:08 pm

Let them eat tofu. Oh……soy is some 85% GMO. Well………Let them eat crickets. Or grubs. Or maybe termites.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  Jon Jewett
February 12, 2018 1:27 pm

Regarding soy: “Soybean seed yield was always increased by elevated CO2”

February 12, 2018 1:12 pm

“in spite of warming.”…..get real…..less than 1 degree
…and that is just because it’s a longer growing season
“who lose between 15-20% of yield on average per year due to prematurely dispersed seeds”…
..then they are not working on a future problem…..they are working on a problem now

Peta of Newark
February 12, 2018 1:23 pm

So the graph says 3 tonnes per hectare for wheat.
Someone’s having a joke are they. I do hope so.
Should be looking at 4+ tonnes per acre.
You work it out.
We don’t need temperature resistant plants anyway, the way we’re headed and all that brown water in Paris, along the Rhine not so long ago, in London, Manchester, Leeds, York and Carlisle Cumbria 3 times in the last 12 years, that tells us we’re gonna need plants that can grow with soil.
We’ll need plants that grow without dirt because all the dirt we’ve got is headed downhill fast. And when something, anything, falls into the water, It Don’t Come Back.
When 2″ of rain in Southern California recently can collapse hillsides to move boulders, block roads, flatten houses and actually kill people. Does that not tell anybody that something really rather bad is happening out there?
No, CO2 is not the cause, its the symptom
How heavy is this little pebble, 97 tons I shouldn’t wonder..comment image

Reply to  Peta of Newark
February 13, 2018 11:33 am

The world wheat growing record yield is held by a New Zealand the South Island Eric Watson grew 16.791 tonnes of wheat per hectare about 6.7 tonne per acre

February 12, 2018 1:27 pm

I’m not clear. Did they decide this after seeing actual productivity reports?

Joel O’Bryan
February 12, 2018 1:28 pm

Minor temperatures changes (1-3 deg C) on these crops is not even a 2nd order effect on productivity.
The first order effects of providing adequate irrigation, fertilizers, and suppression of invasive weeds and pest are first order effects on yield per acre. 2nd order effects are varietals with higher starch yield (seed size).
Human economics is a first order factor controlling world grain production, which sets the commodity market price and thus that is subject to responses of supply and demand. Farmers can put fallow fields to seed if prices are high.The market dynamics and human responses are far more important as the world’s population increases.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
February 12, 2018 1:34 pm

These researchers had to use 5 deg C steps between experimental data points to get their significance. (17 C, 22 C, and 27 C.)

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
February 12, 2018 1:40 pm

new word of the day: dehiscence
de·his·cence (dē-his’ents),
A bursting open, splitting, or gaping along natural or sutured lines.

Bruce Cobb
February 12, 2018 1:34 pm

“….cauliflower and broccoli, and kale” Oh my!
Climatists don’t want this of course. Adaptation throws a monkey wrench into their plans. But I guess there’s always the poly bears. Oh wait. Surely there must be something that they can cling to. How about chocolate?
That’s the ticket! Yep, chocolate is going away, folks. Just in time for Valentine’s Day. And roses too. Don’t forget roses.

Gary Pearse
February 12, 2018 1:49 pm

So, if I’ve got that right, Indehisent genes cause premature seed dispersal. Big Pharma will be all over that!
This article is the perfect example of why Malthusians and doomers are, and will, always, without exception, totally wrong. Indeed, the easiest thing to predict and to be always, without exception, right, is that any potential problem issue that may arise, WILL be resolved by human ingenuity.
Most on the calm, rational side opposing hysterical prognoses are thinkers, doers, problem solvers. The ‘educated’ a priori-type thinkers’ model of the world is a passive, dangerous, petri-dish of limited resources and helpless souls at the mercy of whatever may arise.
The majority relies on others to deal with big problematical issues and, in the main they prove to be fortified with natural scepticism arising perhaps from the remarkable success of the species which may itself be etched in our genes or our hypocampus.This accounts for the enormous amount of propaganda that is rained down on people and its only marginal success.
The fact that the same general type of doomster scenarios with comeuppance for sinning humankind keep circulating around, resurrected from the ashes of previous failed catastrophies, is symptomatic of a predilection for neuroses and in the extreme, psychoses. We might strike paydirt looking for a missing or defective gene in humans on this score.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
February 12, 2018 2:02 pm

“premature seed dispersal”
They have medication for that these days.

Reply to  MarkW
February 12, 2018 2:32 pm

Could you guys just once, post a spew alert? Please! Just once, think about the effect you may have on people and post the alert!
Thank you.

February 12, 2018 2:55 pm

Willis, no genetic tweaking at all is required. Essentially all plant life in existence today evolved at CO2 levels much higher than current levels. Gymnosperms, evergreen trees, evolved when CO2 levels were about 4000 ppm; angiosperms, deciduous trees, at about 2200 ppm. At 180 ppm during the last glacial advance, most plant life was close to starvation. Not only are they doing much better now, they are more drought resistant. It is a win-win situation.
Check out Dr. Roy Spencer’s recent post on crop yields.

Reply to  drhealy
February 13, 2018 6:28 am

Evolution is a wild, blind, and powerful beast, that work in just every conditions, whether CO2 is at 200 ppm, 2,000 or 20,000. Some CO2 starvation may have help C4 and CAM plants appearing (and they did several time, in several lineages). It is thought that they are quite young, wide-spreading only ~10 millions years ago.
If the CO2 level were to drop to 100, 10 or even 1 ppm, you can be sure that some plant will take advantage, even is this means eating chalk and turning it into quicklime or gypsum

michael hart
February 12, 2018 3:17 pm

Interesting. The John Innes Centre is a fine example of a UK institution which still has a global reputation for doing good proper science. Agro-tech like this can benefit the world, with or without global warming, so it’s still a bit of a shame that they need to bring the topic up to bang their own drum.
Unfortunately a significant consideration for this research is still the problem of Greenpeace and Friends-of-the-Earth supporters vandalising the experiments by destroying field trials of new crops. The police and courts have often been too lenient in the past with the perpetrators.

Crispin in Waterloo
February 12, 2018 3:39 pm

Why not just plant it in a cooler climate?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
February 13, 2018 1:41 am

Good point.
As far as I know brassicas (cabbage family) are a cold climate adaption.
Mainly eaten in the cold northern climes of Scotland and other European regions.
Kale for example was (is) a staple winter vegetable which together with fish helped the Scots survive winter deprivation in times past.
So in the event of catastrophic run away Mann made global warming in Scotland, we can grow vines instead of barley and still be (more) miserable.

February 12, 2018 4:18 pm

Drawn to my attention? perhaps, a less emotive, subjective signal?

John in Oz
February 12, 2018 5:15 pm

To study the effect of temperature on fruit dehiscence, we monitored fruit development and dehiscence from Arabidopsis plants grown at 17°C, 22°C, and 27°C

The global warming they are worried about is an average, not a constant temperature.
How does growing anything in a constant temperature show what will happen in the future when the GLOBAL AVERAGE may be higher?

Richard M
February 12, 2018 6:43 pm

Hey, as long as my popcorn still pops up big an fluffy I’m good. Fool with my popcorn and you’re asking for trouble.

John F. Hultquist
February 12, 2018 9:04 pm

In the future, all crops are to be grown in abandoned parking garages with controlled atmosphere.
Nevertheless, I am pleased to see this sort of research. While they are at it, can they create spinach that doesn’t bolt? Maybe ice cream that doesn’t melt?

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
February 12, 2018 9:34 pm

The graph: year versus yield and temperature is a poor quality assessment.
In tropical countries moisture is the limiting factor for agriculture and extra-tropical countries temperature is the limiting factor for agriculture, that is low rainfall and low temperature critically impact agriculture.
When SORGF model of Arkin of A&M Texas,USA [such crop specific models were developed in USA] was tested at ICRISAT, Hyderabad/India. It presented poor correlation with biomass and yield of sorghum (around 0.3). The group tested the model by varying the energy term (trial and error) with no improvement in correlation coefficient – they called this as dynamic crop growth model. This model includes Ritchie’s water balance model that works under recharged profile, which is common in extra-tropical zones. In tropics rains guide the moisture. I developed a model (published in 1983) that works in all conditions (under recharged profile and rains). When this was replaced with the original water balance model, the correlation coefficients increased from around 0.3 to around 0.85. However, Arkin refused to change the model. Research stopped and in its place entered UK’s model of Monteith former Royal met Soc. President. This also disappeared.
The starting year in the graph represents with the chemical input technology. So production is a function of inputs, irrigation, which is reflected in the yields in the graph. The seed varieties tolerant to a range of temperature are discussed in Reddy (1993) under crop development and crop growth from page 144. In fact my comments on AR5 of IPCC, presented at a conference in 2013 wherein the grain yield variation with the inputs & irrigation was presented at all India level (on page213 of Reddy, 2016) – detailed discussions are given with reference to my state in India in Reddy (2007).
The Green Revolution Technology increased the production substantially in terms of quantity. The technology includes high yielding seeds, chemical inputs (fertilizers & pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, etc.) and irrigation. Thus it became most cost-ineffective technology. Even with heavy input subsidies, loan waivers schemes and minimum support prices, among other things, farmers’ suicides are rampant while agricultural growth remains sluggish – as the yield potential has not changed much with new varieties. Ironically, it is the middlemen who are reaping dividends.
Forty years later, genetically modified (GM) seed entered into Indian agriculture system. Most innovations in this have been profit-driven rather than need-driven. Global seed industry is controlled by four western MNCs and at the same time GM seed industry is in one MNC’s hands. The GM technology responds to the need of GM companies to intensify farmers’ dependence upon seeds protected by the so-called intellectual property rights, which conflicts directly with the age-old rights of farmers to reproduce, share or store seeds. In fact, to get overnight profits, the Indian seed companies changed their high yielding seed into GM seed with zero/negative yield advantage; and ensured that non-GM seed is “not sold in the market”. This has resulted markets flooding with spurious/adulterated GM seed varieties under different names.
Bt-cotton, a GM seed, is in use since 2002-03 in India – even before approval seed entered the farmers’ fields. The area under Bt-cotton steadily increased and area under non-Bt decreased. Over-all area under cotton more than doubled under high input costs. As Bt-cotton was also grown under the same conditions of green revolution technology the yields have been more than doubled with high year to year variations due to climate and non-implementation of crop rotation.
Unfortunately the Bt- technology was short lived. In hardly 15 years, as Bt1 became ineffective, Bt2 was introduced. When this was also turned ineffective, they brought-in terminator technology, which was internationally banned [including UN] technology [Bollgaurd-II Roundup Ready Flex] and that too entered India illegally. Why I said illegally is, the seed company applied for government approval and later withdrew the application. While this illegality is going on, Bollgaurd-III Roundup Ready Flex entered India. Laws won’t apply to them. GM has no yield potential except it protects the crop from certain pest/disease but it is found to be short lived and thus introducing new pests/diseases and thus affecting the crop and as well neighbouring crops yields also.
Yet, the productivity has been stagnant for the past five years – in the case of green revolution technology it is stagnated since 1984-85 –. GM groups vigorously lobbied to introduce GM food crops but with the strong protests from the farmer groups the government has not cleared them for cultivation in India but yet they are being grown illegally as the four pillars of Indian constitution are corrupt to the core.
FAO a UN body report states around 30% of the produce is going as waste – this is more than 40% in India. Thus, to that extent the natural resources/inputs are going as waste. When this technology was introduced nobody knew that this technology is going to create such environmental catastrophe. Even the Nobel Prize awarding organization was not aware of this while awarding Nobel Prize to Norman Borlaug. Also several world agencies bestowing awards to rewards to several political-scientists like Dr. M.S.Swaminathan from India.
We must not forget the fact that GM technologies also work under chemical inputs – irrigation only; and thus those impacts also apply to GM seed technology. In addition, GM seed technology presents several other impacts on biodiversity, contamination, re-generation, herbicide-tolerant weeds, new pests-diseases etc.
Bt technology was introduced to control bollworm but introduced new pink bollworm and to control this brought in terminator technology. In USA & China GM crops were not permitted to grow in some zones. In India GM crops are grown everywhere including prohibited zones. There are several other aspects like food safety and ethics but India being a developing country has no mechanism to study such aspects. Thus, with the GM seed technology, the cure has become more dangerous than the disease. Roundup Ready Flex is like scratching the head with fire (discussed in my book of 2000). This destroys/eliminates the traditional agriculture/organic agriculture system in India, which is, thus, destroys the dry-land agriculture in India.
Reddy, S. J., 1993: “Agroclimatic/Agrometeorological Techniques: As Applicable to Dry-land Agriculture in Developing Countries”, Books, 205p [revised version is under publication] — Book Review appeared in Agricultural Forest Meteorology, 67:325-327, 1994 [Elsevier Publ.].
Reddy, S. J., 2000: “Andhra Pradesh Agriculture: Scenario of the last four decades”, Secunderabad, AP, India, 104p.
Reddy, S. J., 2007: “Agriculture & Environment”, Secunderabad, AP, India, 112p
Reddy, S.J., 2016: “Climate Change and its Impacts: Ground Realities”, BSPubl., Hyderabad,India, 276p .
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
[Thank you. MNC = Multi-National-Corporation?
Bt, Bt1, Bt2 refer to a specific strains of the modified cotton? .mod]

Roger Knights
February 12, 2018 10:25 pm

“But, to get there, some genetic tweaking will have to be done, and the irrational greenies would rather starve than eat GMO crops. Perhaps that’s natural selection at work.”

“Nature abhors a moron.”
—H.L. Mencken

February 13, 2018 12:34 am

Or the farmers could move North, where it is a liitle cooler. Lots of empty land to plant.

Reply to  Auralay
February 13, 2018 3:52 am

These are the guys who couldn’t shoot straight. It’s cold tolerance that will be needed.

February 13, 2018 9:21 am

What makes you think you will escape the coming droughts
coming at regular intervals of 87 years to the great plains of America?

February 13, 2018 9:00 pm

We grow wheat and corn from Canada to Mexico.
But if the temperature changes a couple of tenths of a degree… WE WILL ALL STARVE!

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