The use of biodiversity to fight climate change: unravelling the diverse mechanisms in banana for drought and heat tolerance
Evelien Franck1, Clara Gambart1, Hervé Vanderschuren2,1, Steven Janssens3, Sebastien Carpentier4,1
1KU Leuven, Lab. of Tropical Crop Improvement, Division of Crop Biotechnics
Due to climate change, global temperatures are predicted to continue to rise resulting in a higher evaporative demand and in anomalies in weather patterns. These environmental factors influence plant functioning and have major impacts on crop yields. Banana (Musa spp.) is worldwide the most produced fruit, but commercial plantations are dominated by one very drought sensitive variety. However, of the worldwide banana production, 85% is for home consumption and this small-scale production is rain fed. Optimal banana production requires continuous and abundant water, while many agro-eco zones have one or two dry seasons. These become more difficult to predict, shift in time and tend to be more extreme. This not only makes it farmers difficult to predict planting and harvesting dates, but can lead to major yield losses if drought occurs during key physiological stages. On the long term it will force farmers to quit the perennial growing strategy and force them into (bi)annual production systems. To spread the risk of yield loss, one possible solution is to increase the intra-crop diversity. This way, local seed systems can offer every year satisfactory diversity and guarantee yield. While high water-consuming varieties can grow fast with a short drought avoiding crop cycle, more drought tolerant varieties can withstand extreme weather conditions and safeguard food security.
Keywords: Banana, biodiversity, climate change, drought tolerance, molecular mechanisms, phenotyping, transpiration
Contact Address: Sebastien Carpentier, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Biodiversity for food and agriculture, Leuven, Belgium, e-mail: sebastien.carpentierkuleuven.be