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World nourishment at risk of being diminished: Wild cereals threatened by global warming
Date:2/23/2012

2008 and grown in a common greenhouse. The results indicated that over the relatively short period of 28 years, all 20 wild cereal populations examined, without exception, showed a dramatic change in flowering time. All populations sampled in 2008 flowered, on average, about 10 days earlier than those sampled in 1980. "These cereal progenitors are adapting their time of flowering to escape the heat," Prof. Nevo explains. The study also found that the genetic diversity of the 2008 sample is for the most part significantly reduced, but some new drought-adapted variants appeared that could be used for crop improvement. "The ongoing global warming in Israel is the only likely factor that could have caused earliness in flowering and genetic turnover across the range of wild cereals in Israel. This indicates that they are under environmental stress which may erode their future survival," says Prof. Nevo. "Multiple effects of the global warming phenomenon have been observed in many species of plants and animals," he adds. "But this study is pioneering in showing its infuence on flowering and genetic changes in wild cereals. These changes threaten the best genetic resource for crop improvement and thereby may damage food production."

A number of species did show positive adaptive changes resulting from global warming, such as earliness in flowering or migration into cooler regions. "But overall," says Prof. Nevo, "the genetic resources of these critical wild cereals are undergoing rapid erosion - and cannot be dismissed as a concern for future generations. Wild emmer wheat is the world's most important genetic resource for wheat improvement, and it is up to us to preserve it. We are utilizing our gene bank at the Institute of Evolution for transforming genes of interest to the crop. However, a much more extensive effort needs to be made to keep the natural populations thriving, by preventing urbanization and global warming from eliminating them".


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Contact: Rachel Feldman
rfeldman@univ.haifa.ac.il
972-482-88722
University of Haifa
Source:Eurekalert  

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