Hello, my name is Roberto Tuberosa,
and I teach plant biotechnology
applied to plant breeding at the
University of Bologna in Italy.
My research interests focus
mainly on maize and durum wheat,
also known as pasta
wheat, durum wheat.
My lecture will touch upon
a number of important issues
to better understand and appreciate
the roles that modern genetics will
play to select more
climate-resilient crop cultivars,
better able to adapt to a
fast changing environment.
It has been estimated
that approximately 70%
of the increase in food production
that will be required to meet
an adequate level of food
security by year 2050,
will derive from
Particularly genomics applied
to combination of breeding.
The contents of this
overlap and expand
those of other lectures.
Particularly the one provided by
Professor Henry, Professor Tester,
and Professor King.
But also provide useful information
and material for a number of issues
important to mitigate the
consequences of climate change
on agriculture by a
In view of the vastity and
complexity of the issue started
by my lecture, I will only
focus on the limited number
of aspects and examples.
I will start by setting the stage
for a number of important issues
and aspects, including also some
dos and don'ts as related to both
and to molecular breeding,
also known as genomics
Due to the fact that most traits
that regulate the adaptive response
of the plant are
quantitative, the QTL approach
will be dealt with quite
extensively in this lecture,
with some examples from my own
lab, and also from the literature.
Finally, I will provide some
comments on the future challenges
and opportunities to best
mitigate the negative effects
of climate change.
Climate change is actually
nothing new under the sun.
It has always been with us, ever
since agricultural practices
were first adopted in the Neolithic.
In the past, entire
civilizations have suffered
the negative consequences of
unexpected changes of climate.
Particularly the pattern of
rainfall, and in some cases,
the consequences have
been totally devastating.
A recent example from
the last century,
was the Dust Bowl, caused by a
prolonged drought and mismanagement
of farmers, practices,
in the Midwest.
Notably, it has been suggested that
the success of the introduction
of hybrid corn in the US, may have
somehow been favored by the drought
conditions that prevailed during
the years of the Dust Bowl.
What has really changed
in the past century
is the rate to which such
changes are occurring, together
with the frequency and severity of
weather anomalies, and importantly,
the damage to both
yield and yield quality.
While in the past, farming has
privately adopted the strategy
to adapt the growing environment
to the needs of the crops,
as, for example, with
and pesticides, et cetera.
Increasingly more attention is
being devoted to the selection
of genotypes better suited to cope
with environmental fluctuations,
extremes, and more thrifty,
in terms of requirements
of natural resources.
As more resources that use
efficient cultivars are increasingly
being adopted to enhance
this so-called sustainable
intensification of agriculture,
namely producing more with less,
and reducing the environmental
impact of agriculture
on the environment.
We should, therefore, always
be aware of possible trade-offs
yield, versus minimizing
risks due to climate fluctuations.
Examples of this are resistance
genes that protect the plant
from the pathogen, but
with a metabolic cost.
That can curtail
in absence of the pathogen attack.
A similar consideration applies
also to the size and biomass
of roots in relation
to water availability.
Clearly, the implications on the
acceptable level of risk aversion
of farmer's communities
differ in industrialized
countries, versus developing ones.
In this context, modeling
provides an effective framework
to design and test in silico,
including effects of QTLs
and genes, new crops ideotypes
optimized for target environments,
and future climatic scenarios.