India, the United States and Australia have joined hands to develop new climate-resilient varieties of rice and wheat, two of the "big three" primary crops required to feed the world.
As part of this endeavor, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting a new public-private research partnership between the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) and India's Vibha Agrotech.
This new collaboration will leverage ACPFG's unique gene technologies and considerable expertise in cereal stress tolerance and Vibha's field evaluation and rice transformation capabilities to develop new rice and wheat varieties with enhanced tolerance to drought and salinity, allowing farmers more stable production in the face of sudden drought and evolving salt water intrusion, an official release said.
The new lines will be evaluated under representative field conditions and the most successful will be transferred into the varieties that farmers grow, USAID said.
Work will initially take place in Australia and India, but the technologies will be made available to developing countries in South Asia and globally where climate stresses impact cereal yields, so that farmers can be more confident that they will have a good harvest, even as climate change creates more unpredictable growing environments, USAID said.
"We have to increase global food production by 60 per cent by 2050, even as climate change is already affecting crop yields," said Dr Julie Howard, USAID's Chief Scientist in the Bureau for Food Security and Senior Advisor to the Administrator on Agricultural Research, Extension and Education.
"That means we must use all the tools available to us to grow more food on less land and with less water. USAID is excited to launch this partnership and to leverage new expertise, resources and technologies to help make important cereal crops and, ultimately, the smallholders who grow them - more resilient to climate change," she said.
The ambitious program is part of Feed the Future, the US Government's global hunger and food security initiative.