Birds, plants and people all need to adapt to the changing climate. The spring arrives earlier, and growing seasons become longer on fields and in forests.
Climate change offers more potential for growth in the north, but it also makes conditions more unpredictable: longer periods of drought or rain, new diseases and pests, and more storm damage.
Birds need to adapt to changes on their own, while plant and tree breeding helps plants and trees to adapt to the changing climate.
How can we breed plants and trees for the changing conditions?
How can we breed plants and trees for the changing conditions? This was the key question at an international conference held in Oulu. Presentations teemed with words like sustainability, proper growth rhythm, opportunities of genomics in breeding and optimal areas for different species or forest regeneration material.
Resilience to drought will become a key quality in Southern Europe. However, Finland will also face summers that put a strain on cereals and spruce trees.
A warmer climate brings along new diseases and pests, against which trees and crops need to be able to defend themselves. Having a correct growth rhythm is very important for perennial trees: growth must start and end at the right time in new climate conditions.
Breeding faces major challenges, for which solutions are being sought using the latest tools.
Field results and climate models are combined when future climate conditions and the best areas for different forest regeneration materials resulting from tree breeding are considered.
Tools for genomics help to identify important individual genes and their best forms applied to crops.
Tools for genomics help to identify important individual genes and their best forms applied to crops, as has been done in Alan Schulman’s projects.
The use of genomics in accelerating and boosting the breeding of forest trees and in increasing their resilience to diseases is also being studied.
The know-how of breeders can work wonders, but not the impossible.
Climate change causes unpredictable and extreme weather conditions from one year to the next, just like during the past two summers. A cool and rainy summer was followed by the scorching hot and dry last summer.
Breeders adapt plants and trees to expected changes, also by selecting more resilient materials.
However, future summers will offer highly varying conditions for birds, on fields and in forests, for which farmers, forest owners and all parts of society need to prepare.
Let us hope reasonably good summers and tolerable damage!
Published in Finnish in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus newspaper on 15 of April 2019.