Food plant under threat from climate change
Rice is a cereal that provides food for half the world’s population. This vital crop is seriously threatened by climate change and disease. Around 40% of rice is grown at higher altitudes in rain-fed fields; decreased rainfall due to climate change will reduce productivity. A larger proportion of rice is grown in rice paddies in lower lying and coastal areas, especially in Asia. Here, rising sea levels could flood rice-growing areas and increase soil salinity, preventing rice cultivation. The effects of climate change on rice will be complex – increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will tend to increase production, but rising temperatures will negate this. Meanwhile, changes in humidity and carbon dioxide concentration will affect rice’s susceptibility to rice blast and other fungal diseases, and increasing temperatures will enhance reproduction of insect pests, including the leafhoppers that spread many rice-infecting viruses.