Forage grasses adapted to future drought

Picture copyright NORTON et al.

Perennial forage grasses are major species for agriculture and food security. Production of grasses is threatened by increasing drought periods in the context of climate change. Norton et al. review the knowledge of factors influencing plant drought survival. They propose solutions such as increasing the depth and density of grass root systems to strengthen dehydration avoidance, and identifying non-toxic endophyte strains compatible with summer-dormant cultivars of tall fescue to enhance drought survival.

The four concepts of climate-smart agriculture

Picture copyright URRUTY et al.

Food production is actually facing issues of climate change, unstable markets and complex public policies. Agronomists and farmers therefore need new ideas to design alternative farming systems. Urruty et al. explain the four concepts of climate-smart agriculture : stability, robustness, vulnerability and resilience. They present methods to evaluate farming management using these concepts.

How plants adapt to salt and drought?

Picture copyright DAVIES, CSIRO
Picture copyright DAVIES, CSIRO

Safflower is a major crop used for flavoring foods, dyes, livestock feeds and medicine. However, safflower production is threatened by climate change that increases soil salinity and drought. To solve this issue, plant scientists Hussein et al. review the mechanisms of the impact of drought and salt on plants, and the strategies to enhance safflower resistance.

Climate-friendly coffee

Industrial coffee plantations are warming our climate because too much fertilisers are applied. Capa et al. tested coffee cropping using various amounts of fertilisers. They found that cutting by half the fertiliser amounts is still economically and environmentally sustainable.


A new tool to optimize fodder production under climate change

Milk and meat production highly depends on the availability of fodder, which is obtained by mowing grass in summer wet conditions. However, grass production is projected to decrease due to lower rainfall in the summer. The grassland surface is indeed already decreasing worldwide. In order to improve grassland management Dusseux et al. designed a new model named PaturMata to study grassland production under climate change.


Rice-based crop rotations against global warming

Global warming is mainly due to the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere. Agriculture highly influences atmospheric CO2 because plants and soils can sequester CO2 or release CO2. Researchers are thus trying to identify cropping practices, such as conservation tillage, that sequester CO2 in plants and soils in order to decrease atmospheric CO2 levels. Agronomists Motschenbacher et al. studied for the first time daily soil surface CO2 in rice-based crop rotations with corn, soybean, and winter wheat.


Why medicinal and spice plants produce more active substances under drought ?

Medicinal plants grown under drought stress produce much higher amounts of active substances thas the same plant species cultivated with sufficient water. This phenomenon was so far poorly understood. In a literature review, plant scientists Kleinwächter and Selmar deduce for the first time that a modification of the photosynthetic apparatus under drought stress is responsible for higher yields of medicinal substances. Such knowledge can be applied to enhance the production of spice and medicinal plants by applying moderate drought stress during cultivation.


A solution for soybean yield loss under drought stress

Climate change will increase the negative impacts of drought stress on food production. This issue is particularly relevant for drought-sensitive legumes. For instance a moderate deficit of water can decrease soybean yields by about 40%. Experiments by agronomists Prudent et al. show that the yield of water-stressed soybean can be increased by adding a bacterial substance. Findings suggest promising field applications.


Maize will not suffer from climate change if well watered

Global warming is partly due to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Global warming will probably increase drought periods.  Plants assimilate CO2 by photosynthesis to build plant roots, leaves and shoots. There is actually little knowledge on how plants will respond to increasing CO2  and drought stress. Erbs et al grew maize under ambient CO2 concentration, of 380 ppm, and elevated  CO2 concentration, of 550 ppm. Some maize plants were grown well-watered, others were under drought stress. Results show that maize is not altered under elevated  CO2 if maize is well-watered, contrary to some other plant species. Maize is thus a promising crop for future climate, provided that maize is well watered.


Green roofs for food, clean air and better climate

Green roofs recover green spaces in urban areas. Green roofs benefit the public, farmers and wildlife. Green roofs reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate urban heat island effects, absorb dust and smog, sequester CO2, produce O2, create space for food production, and provide natural habitat for animals and plants. Li and Babcock review the economic and environmental benefits of green roofs.