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Millet, Sorghum Varieties Developed to Overcome Global Warming

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Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- New varieties of crops including pearl millet and sorghum better adapted to drought and heat will help farmers in dry tropical regions overcome the effects of global warming, a plant researcher said.

Millet varieties have been developed that can flower and set seed at temperatures above 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit), the Patancheru, India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, or ICRISAT, said in a statement on its website today.

Based on current climate-change models, wheat output in northern India and Pakistan will fall between 17 percent and 38 percent by 2020 because of heat stress to the crop, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center estimates.

“There will be a drop in agricultural productivity with climate change in the dry-land tropics,” ICRISAT said. “With a combination of climate change-ready varieties plus improved agronomic practices, dry-land farmers will be able to overcome the adverse impacts of a warmer world.”

ICRISAT said it focuses on pearl millet, sorghum, chickpeas, pigeon peas and groundnuts, which are important to people’s livelihoods and have “natural evolutionary advantages” to withstand global warming. High salinity tolerance of pearl millet and sorghum means those crops are “better adapted to areas that are becoming saline due to global warming,” the researcher said.

The researcher has developed sorghum that can produce “good yields” at 42 degrees Celsius, as well as groundnuts and chickpeas that grow faster to escape “terminal drought,” it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.

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