crop plants, local food production problems, There are many ways to assess or define the stress resilience of crop produc - strategic thinking, Stress resilience. tion, but ultimately the resilience of systems (and communities), i.e., an ability Correspondence to survive and prosper, is driven by profitability. Here we review challenges William J. Davies, The Lancaster Environment for those who seek to bring about beneficial change in practice or policy as Centre, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, we translate novel crop science research findings into impacts on the food Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. supply chain. While advances in plant and crop science are relevant to this Tel: +44 1524 510203; challenge, the context of application is crucial here and this will mean that E-mail: email@example.com many other considerations, discussed below, will potentially moderate the impact Funding Information on crop growth and yield of what could be the introduction of very significant The authors are grateful to the Society for breakthroughs in genetic gain. This paper considers opportunities for plant Experimental Biology for financial support. scientists seeking to address the world’s growing food security challenge by exploiting new understanding of the basis of crop stress resilience. Ultimately Received: 21 February 2017; the local challenge is to increase the resilience of cropping systems and rural Accepted: 28 February 2017 communities. Food and Energy Security 2017; 6(1): 12–18 doi: 10.1002/fes3.105 Even though advances in plant and crop science under- Introduction: The Challenge and a standing have helped us make considerable progress toward Local Response meeting the food- related Millennium Development Goals and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals, there There are many ways to assess or define the stress resil - is still a very significant “Global Food Security Challenge.” ience of crop production, but ultimately the resilience of This is a multidisciplinary challenge which depressingly now systems (and communities), i.e., an ability to survive and also involves a necessity to address the fact that for the prosper, is driven by profitability. Here, we review chal - first time in history, there are more obese people in the lenges for those who seek to bring about beneficial change world than there are hungry people. We recognize that in practice or policy as we translate novel crop science both hunger and obesity are promoting significant health research findings into impacts on the food supply chain. problems associated with unhealthy and/or inadequate diets. While advances in plant and crop science are relevant to While stress resilience is of less relevance to those address- this challenge, the context of application is crucial here ing this set of issues, stress effects on crop and food quality and this will mean that many other considerations, dis- can be appreciable and there are opportunities here for cussed below, will potentially moderate the impact on crop science to deliver change for the better. crop growth and yield of what could be the introduction We need to increase the availability of food in many of very significant breakthroughs in genetic gain This paper regions of the world and also increase peoples’ access to considers opportunities for plant scientists seeking to this food but the food should also be healthy. There are address the world’s growing food security challenge by many social cultural and economic considerations that con- exploiting new understanding of the basis of crop stress tribute to local differences in food availability. These con- resilience. Ultimately the local challenge is to increase the siderations can be captured effectively in the following identity resilience of cropping systems and rural communities. © 2017 The Authors. Food and Energy Security published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and the Association of Applied Biologists. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. W. J. Davies & J.- M. Ribaut Stress Resilience in Crop Plants which describes major influences which can determine the are mostly concerned with the impact of the environment impact of a change in a food production system: (stress) on the genetic potential yield. Increasingly however we are concerned with the impact of agriculture (the G × E × M × S (Genetics × Environment × Management crop/food production process) on the environment. There × People/Society) is particular concern for the overuse of the input resources required for crop production and excessive water use is This interaction between a multitude of factors effectively a major problem on several continents, with falling water tells us that a “local” approach to addressing many food tables due to over extraction of water for irrigation hav- challenges must be important. Crop science is well aware ing a particularly significant effect on natural vegetation of the importance of G × E interactions in determining and ultimately promoting desertification (Kang et al. 2008). how effective new traits may be in particular locations/envi- Overuse of fertilizer impacts adversely on soil quality (e.g., ronments. Probably not surprisingly, some traits can have Guo 2010) and on quality of ground water and surface very positive effects on crop yield in some stress environ- water which can create important health risks (e.g., ments but the same traits can have neutral or even negative Campbell et al. 2016)). The stress biology at issue here effects when environmental conditions are varied (Tardieu is variation in water and nutrient availability and there 2012; Bonneau et al. 2013). Often crop production is most is now much information to show how these stress vari- profitable in good years (optimal conditions) and it is these ables can be exploited to the benefit of both resource profitable years that help to sustain farmers through subop- use and crop production. Stress is effectively being used timal years when different stresses are present. Breeding for as a crop growth regulator. Among the best example is resilience, requires assessment of performance under optimal alternate wetting and drying irrigation (AWD) which saves and suboptimal conditions to ensure that genetic gain under water while sustaining yield and can have beneficial effects abiotic stress is not associated with a yield penalty in the on greenhouse gas emissions and crop quality (Yang and absence of stress (Ribaut 2006). One of the major conse- Zhang 2010) quence of climate changes is the increasing unpredictability It goes without saying that we should seek wherever of climatic conditions and an increase in the stress intensity. possible to minimize the damaging effects of agriculture As a result improved rice cultivars in some regions of south- such as those detailed above, while still seeking new ways east Asia need to be resistant to flooding during the first of increasing productivity. Exploitation of understanding part of the crop cycle, but at the same time being drought of the genetic basis of crop stress resilience, or how to tolerant as water limited conditions might occur during mitigate it such as through crop diversification (Lin 2011), flowering or grain filling stages; the good news is that sur- can be key here. International Initiatives such as the prisingly those “opposite” stresses might have some common Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) have demon- genetic basis (Fukao et al. 2011;. Rubaiyath et al. 2016). strated that translational research in crop improvement Recent work by agronomists at CSIRO (Kirkegaard and is not only achievable but can be highly successful with Hunt 2010) in collaboration with breeders in the same the right combination of technical and “soft” science skills organization shows the importance of even the most basic and expertise. The GCP was able to demonstrate that of crop management options (M in above equation) and harnessing plant genetic diversity and applying modern many other studies show that social considerations (S) biology to the development of new crop varieties that are also very important in determining whether an inno- meet the needs of smallholder farmers is both an efficient vation is taken up and whether it impacts on peoples’ and effective means of conducting translational research. lives. Even in the most general consideration of the Food This Programme promoted a way of working based on Security challenge it is apparent that peoples’ access to “true” partnerships by assembling the right combination diets dominated by poorly nutritious, often unsafe food of expertise into teams, by providing these teams with can cause massive health problems for many. Price et al. adequate resources- including budget- and managing their (2013) show how novel plant stress biology implemented evolution toward synergy and delivery of outputs while, through genetics and crop management can have very at the same time, encouraging and enforcing information beneficial effects on the safety of food but this crop- sharing (Ribaut 2014). specific challenge requires a local “solution.” Recently, the term “sustainable intensification” has been coined to describe a target for future food production Some Targets for Plant Scientists in methodology. This may be a useful development but most the Delivery of “Sustainable are well aware that this term is highly location-specific Intensification” and even in meta- environments, techniques for sustainable use of water and nutrients in agriculture will be context- Crop scientists who focus on the interaction between the specific, depending on for example the nature of the soils genetic basis of their crop of choice and the environment © 2017 The Authors. Food and Energy Security published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and the Association of Applied Biologists. 13 Stress Resilience in Crop Plants W. J. Davies & J.- M. Ribaut and the hydrology of the region. Local “solutions” need chronically high temperatures and an increase generally to consider agricultural, environmental and social factors in mean temperature can sensitively affect different stages which will differ in importance, again with location and of reproductive crop development while also accelerating land use objective. Pollock (2016) has highlighted the fact crop development, resulting in shorter crop durations and that the preservation of viable rural communities intimately reduced time to accumulate biomass and grain yield. The linked to local agricultural needs to be given more atten- time from trait identification, through breeding, local tion if we are to also preserve/achieve rural social stability. availability and adoption of a new variety can be up to We will see below how crop genetics and management 30 years and although revised breeding strategies and new techniques based on understanding of the basis of crop methodologies, such as double haploids or genomics resilience can be influential in climate- stressed (Varshney et al. 2012), can reduce the cycle significantly, communities. there are many other factors that determine the adoption of new varieties by farmers. In addition to market demands that might determine profitability, new varieties require Crop Science to Ameliorate the efficient regulatory processes and distribution networks Impact of a 4 Degree World on Food and will likely be accompanied by improved management Production practices that enhance yield and quality potential. Projections of climate change impacts produced by a Challinor et al. (2016) have identified this chain of number of different modeling approaches indicate near developments through to impact as the BDA process certainty that global crop production will be negatively (Breeding, Development, Adoption). These authors show affected by climate change (Challinor et al. 2014). Most that for maize in Africa both adaptation and mitigation predictions also suggest reduced crop quality and nutri- can reduce loss of yield due to shortening cropping dura- tional value (i.e., decreases in leaf and grain N, protein tion and they argue that climate projections have the and nutrient (Fe, Zn, Mn, Cu) concentrations) associated potential to provide target elevated temperatures for with warmer climates and increased CO2 levels. (Stress regional breeding operations. They also stress that while effects that need to be overcome). options for reducing BDA time are highly context- To date, only a relatively few studies have delivered dependent, there are common threads. estimates of climate change effects for different regions Many recent reports on the global food security chal- of the world. Lobell et al. (2011) have identified South lenge have stressed the need for enhanced knowledge Asia and southern Africa as two regions that, in the absence exchange strategies in many parts of the world, including of significant crop adaptation, would suffer the most nega- the developed world (e.g., UK Foresight). This may par- tive impacts on important food crops (some of which ticularly be the case in the developing world as highlighted have received little attention from stress biologists). The by Challinor et al. (2016). As many of those living in expectation is that future climate will be on average both poverty in the developing world depend on agriculture warmer and wetter. Crop seasonality is affected by both for their income, vibrant agricultural systems are the key the intensity and the distribution of the rains over time to development. The five countries in the world with the and both are affected by climate change (Feng et al. 2013). greatest problems with agricultural production and hence Increases in the inter- annual variability of yields are also the greatest food and nutrition needs are all found in likely to become more pronounced and will potentially sub- Saharan Africa. Agricultural development can feed more affect stability of food availability and access (Porter et al. people in the region and can also link to more general 2014). economic growth and reduction of poverty by generating Hochman et al. at CSIRO (2017) analyzed data from employment. GPC (http://globalplantcouncil.org/) can help 50 weather stations located throughout Australia’s wheat- focus the attention of plant science and scientists in the growing areas and found that, on average, the amount developed world on this region of the developing world. of rain falling on growing crops declined by 2.8 mm per In recent years, crop yields in many African countries season, or 28% over 26 years, while maximum daily tem- have begun to rise and this is early evidence, that African peratures increased by an average of 1.05°C. By modeling agriculture may now be generating its own “Green these data using APSIM they calculate that the national Revolution.” Progress has been driven by a number of wheat yield will fall from the recent average of 1.74 tonnes factors, including increased investment in infrastructure, per hectare to 1.55 tonnes per hectare in 2041. introduction of policies to enhance both local and inter- Plant science now has the capacity to develop crop national markets, and some development of extension varieties that are better suited to contrasting and new programs to help farmers take profit from new knowledge climatic conditions more rapidly than has previously been which can enhance crop productivity (Foresight Africa). the case. Increases in the incidence of water deficits, As is the case with many aspects of food systems around 14 © 2017 The Authors. Food and Energy Security published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and the Association of Applied Biologists. W. J. Davies & J.- M. Ribaut Stress Resilience in Crop Plants the world, there is no single silver bullet which will “solve” agronomy students from a range of regional Universities the problem of food and nutrition insecurity. There is, and from China Agricultural University (the project co- however, a general view that with appropriate focus upon ordinator) are assigned to “Science and Technology regional constraints, capacity development, investment and Backyards” (STBs) in rural China. Often these are single partnerships, many African countries have the potential villages or groups of small communities where the students to address the problem of substantial crop yield gaps that work to develop farmers’ co-operatives and to introduce historically have held back development on the continent new technology and changed farming practice. Increases (Van Ittersum et al. 2016). in water and nutrient use productivity and yielding that Evidence for the considerable potential of African agri- have been achieved in these villages are impressive (Zhang culture may be found by looking at recent or intended et al. 2016). investments by the African Development Bank. Africa Campbell et al. (2016) have recently argued that given currently imports one- third of all calories consumed (USD the serious threats to food security posed by climate 77 Billion pa) and with widespread poverty (49% of the change, attention should shift to an action- oriented research population in Africa lives on <USD 1.25/day) and high agenda. He and co- authors see four key challenges: youth unemployment (40–60%), the imperative for an agricultural transformation that will result in broader (a) changing the culture of research; impacts is very obvious (Chianu, 2016). (b) deriving stakeholder-driven portfolios of options for The challenges are many. Up to 60% of all famers are farmers, communities and countries; non- commercial or semi-commercial. Markets are under- (c) ensuring that adaptation actions are relevant to those developed and in many instances value chains are very most vulnerable to climate change; weak. However, the Feed Africa Initiative has set ambitious (d) combining adaptation and mitigation strategies. goals for the period to 2025. It will aim to substantially eliminate extreme poverty, end hunger and malnutrition, The emphasis here is to increase stakeholder engagement enhance the performance of value chains in agriculture in research and by definition general principles and strate- and turn Africa into a net food exporter. gies to mitigate climate change impact must be imple- To achieve these ambitious aims will require a com- mented at the local level. In reality the BDA catena defined mitment by governments and many others, especially to by Challinor et al. (2016), also termed the research to invest in human capital; the researchers and practitioners implementation gap, or the science-policy gap, is often who will drive the development and sustainability of agri- substantial. Action is needed to address this shortcoming cultural commodities and processes. A key challenge will and GPC may have a role to play here. be to retain the best and brightest young minds and to Adoption rate of technologies with the potential to create a cadre of innovative scientists, including plant reduce risks in agriculture has traditionally been slow. breeders, who see a future in African agriculture. This For example, despite a global shortage of water for most will not be easy. Budding young scientists often see a purposes, the adoption of improved water management future in developed countries or international agencies practices has been slow, even in agriculture, where around where their talents will be well- rewarded. However, we 70% of the world’s available fresh water is used. There are optimistic, the potential is there (Diop et al. 2013). seems to be a clear case here for enhanced knowledge We see a future where agriculture and agricultural research exchange between farmers, scientists and regional policy play an important part in national economies; where sci- makers. How can stress resilience biology help us produce ence and education will be key to economic development ‘more crop per drop’? and resourced accordingly; and, where regional initiatives and international organizations all have a role to play in Three Examples of Possible Local creating an enabling and rewarding environment for young Interventions to Increase Food African researchers. Security, Health and Well- being at The development of African agriculture will be both Decreasing Scale of Operation global and local; globally, the biophysical potential is huge- about 60% of the world’s un- utilized but potentially available cropland is in Africa. Locally, the vast migration (a) The Community Scale: Eco- and Climate-Smart Villages of populations from rural to urban areas is creating new market opportunities. Some years ago, the EU funded the development of so- New developments in KE with small holder farmers called eco-v illages in different regions of sub-S aharan that might be applied globally with regional tuning have Africa. Introduction of technological innovation on a vil- recently been described by Zhang et al. (2016). Here lage scale resulted in enhancement of social sustainability © 2017 The Authors. Food and Energy Security published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and the Association of Applied Biologists. 15 Stress Resilience in Crop Plants W. J. Davies & J.- M. Ribaut of the communities as a component of enhanced envi- (c) The Crop Scale: Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work ronmental sustainability, the importance of which was for Smallholder Farmers in Africa (N2Africa) http:// highlighted by Pollock (2016). In particular, introduction www.n2africa.org/ of solar arrays generated significant increases in health and well-b eing of children as a result of phasing out of Here, the crop stress which is a major problem in much kerosene- based lighting system and their adverse effect of sub Saharan Africa, is a shortage of nitrogen for crops. on air quality in the home. Energy was also used to great N2Africa, a Gates-funded long term project directed by effect for water pumping for irrigation and deficit irriga- Ken Giller at Wageningen University, is focused on ena- tion techniques were applied. In the Chinese STB com- bling African smallholder farmers to benefit more fully munities described above, crop scientists have shown from symbiotic N2- fixation by grain legumes. The thrust villagers how to grow crops with reduced nutrient and of the project is a locally- focused knowledge exchange water input. Crop geneticists have also played a part. and capacity- building effort and the development of effec- In what appears to be a very successful collaboration tive production technologies including inoculants and between CGIAR- CCAFS and several national programmes fertilizers. The capacity that is built will sustain the pipeline in Africa, rural communities are encouraged to develop and deliver continuous improvement in legume produc- Climate Sensitive Villages (CSVs) as platforms where tion technologies tailored to local settings. researchers, local partners, farmers’ groups and policymak- Discovery research is aimed at the identification of new ers collaborate to select and trial a portfolio of technologies elite strains of rhizobium for the several major grain leg- and institutional interventions. The focus is on the objec- umes other than soybean – common bean, cowpea and tives of climate- smart agriculture (Campbell et al. 2016): groundnut. New elite strains will be made available to namely, enhancing productivity, incomes, climate resilience inoculant producers for scaling up the technology. The and mitigation. Importantly, context-specific objectives are project website stresses that delivery and dissemination established by the stakeholders. approaches will be tailored to local needs. New, innova- The Campbell paper notes that a broad range of adap- tive tools for monitoring and evaluation will allow “best tation technologies are introduced into the CSVs. These fit technologies” to be developed at the field and farm- include water-smart practices, weather- smart activities, scale to be translated into “best- fit approaches” at the nutrient- smart practices, carbon- and energy- smart prac- country or regional scale. In the first phase, N2Africa tices and knowledge- smart activities, all of which have reached more than 230,000 farmers who evaluated and been discussed above. employed improved grain legume varieties, rhizobium inoculants and basal (P) fertilizers. The impact on the (b) The Farming System Scale: Conservation Agriculture family of the increased utilization of legumes is particularly large as the crop is largely grown by women and used Conservation Agriculture (CA) has been widely adopted within the home. with some success throughout the Americas, where the Introduction of N fixation biology into non- legume effects of tillage had previously resulted in loss of soil crops may also be a game-changer if these new seeds can structure, soil erosion with the loss of large quantities of be made available to the very large numbers of smallhold- good quality soil. CA is said to increase yields, to improve ers in developing countries who can benefit from this soil fertility, reduce soil water loss, control weed growth stress resilience technology (Charpentier and Oldroyd, and reduce erosion. There may also be savings on use 2010). of tractor fuel and reduced C emissions, all changes result- It is clear from the above examples that there is much ing in a much more stress resilient agricultural system. action- orientated research underway in farming communi- However, Giller et al. (2009) have suggested that CA ties around the world. It is equally clear that there is can leave farmers with a heavy dependence on herbicides much still to do within the framework of the BDA pipeline and fertilizers. The same group has highlighted particular (above) or the research to outcome catena. One size concerns for use of conservation agriculture in Africa. interventions will not “fit all” across the globe and we These include: decreased yields often observed with CA, ask now what the Global Plant Council can do to facilitate increased labor requirements when herbicides are not used, progress in implementation as plant science and scientists an important gender shift of the labor burden to women seek to address a mounting number of global food and a lack of mulch due to poor productivity and due challenges. to the priority given to feeding of livestock with crop Food security is a global issue; by 2050 food produc- residues. This appears to be an excellent example of dif- tion must increase by at least 60% to meet the demands ferent regional manifestations of the interaction between of a growing population and changing diets. Meeting this G × E × M × S (above). challenge will require global and strategic thinking and 16 © 2017 The Authors. 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