Plants provide almost every calorie of food we eat. Grains like rice, wheat and corn make civilisation possible. For millennia, farmers have bred grains, fruit and vegetable varieties to get larger harvests and plants better able to tolerate different climates.
But climate change is going to bring enormous disruption to the plants we rely on. A hotter world. Drier in some places. Wetter in others. Intensified droughts. More fire. Sudden torrential rain.
We are going to need plants with even greater resilience. But can it be done?
We believe so. Our team has been working to climate-proof five popular fruits – banana, the single most commonly bought item in supermarkets, as well as pineapple, passionfruit, custard apples and paw paw. We have already done this with chickpeas to produce new, more resilient varieties.
Climate change and horticulture
Australia, the driest inhabited continent, has already seen weather patterns shift. Droughts have become more severe, heatwaves and fire have intensified, and intense rainfall and floods are more common. In some areas, there’s less winter rainfall, and the ocean temperature is rising.
Fruit and vegetable growing is one of Australia’s most important agricultural sectors, with an annual production value (excluding wine grapes) exceeding A$11 billion in 2021–’22.
But this could change.