Posted on July 5, 2012 / Comments Off / Show post tags
Cabbage, broccoli, carrots, onions and other resistant vegetables are being grown by researchers in Cuba, who for decades have been working to design crops that can weather the climate changes caused by global warming.
“We are now focused on trying to develop new varieties, with a view to climate change,” said Laura Muñoz, the researcher who heads a crop improvement team in the “Alejandro de Humboldt” National Institute for Basic Research in Tropical Agriculture (INIFAT).
The task involves extreme dedication and long hours of work. Depending on the species, coming up with a resistant variety can take from five to 15 years. The characteristics sought in the new plants are “growth, resistance and vitality”, Muñoz explained.
In the meantime, the climate continues to change. A 2009 report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) forecasts mild consequences in the region from global warming by 2020, but says they will become especially acute after 2050.
As a result of global warming, extreme events will become more frequent in the near future, such as forest fires, floods, drought, and more intense storms and hurricanes. This makes changes in all spheres of life necessary in developing countries and island nations like Cuba.
According to the ECLAC report, “adaptation also brings with it some opportunities to pursue more sustainable development, such as better infrastructure, (and) crop variety research and development,” to help sustain food supplies.
Some steps in that direction have already been taken in this Caribbean island nation. Since the early 1960s, Muñoz’s team has identified “five annual planting seasons, with different conditions,” a finding that “did a great deal to improve understanding of the climate problem.”
Today, they are studying more than 30 species of vegetables, to develop resistant varieties. These include tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and cucumber, some of the most widely consumed vegetables in Cuba. Others are melons, watermelons, carrots, beans, aubergine and lettuce.
The idea is to develop plants that are adaptable to the climate of the future, when both winter and summer will be warmer.
Muñoz said that thanks to the work carried out over the last few decades, Cuba now has varieties that are more resistant to pests and drought, and which can be produced outside of the normal growing seasons.
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