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Climate change: The rice genome to the rescue

ady to put up US$2 million of its own research funds as part of an effort to raise $2025 million for a major five-year project to mitigate the effects of climate change on rice production. "We need to start developing rice varieties that can tolerate higher temperatures and other aspects of climate change right now," he said.

"Fortunately, the recent sequencing of the rice genome will allow us to do this much faster than we could have in the past," Dr. Zeigler added. "But, in addition to new rice varieties, we must develop other technologies that will help poor rice farmers deal with climate change."

In one of several examples presented to last week's climate workshop, researchers mentioned El Nio weather phenomena that hit the Philippines in 1996-97 and caused a severe drought, resulting in a sharp drop in national rice production. Other examples focused on the impact of climate change and variability on gross domestic product, generally causing it to slip by several percentage points.

"One of the main problems with climate change is that the effects are felt mostly in poor, underdeveloped countries because of their reliance on agriculture as one of the main drivers for national development," Dr. Zeigler said. "In turn, agriculture is very dependent on climate.

"Another more insidious effect may be more frequent extreme weather events such as typhoons, floods and droughts," Dr. Zeigler warned. "IRRI's research has shown that even one drought year can push millions of rice farmers back below the poverty line. This affects the whole family for many years after the drought year, as they will have sold their livestock and withdrawn their children from school just to survive."

IRRI's senior climate change researcher, John Sheehy, told the workshop that poor farmers need help in several challenging new areas. "We need to develop rice varieties tolerant of higher temperatures that can maintain yield and quality when extreme temper
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Contact: Duncan Macintosh
d.macintosh@cgiar.org
632-580-5673
International Rice Research Institute
27-Mar-2006


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