Record-breaking temperatures followed by periods of record-breaking rainfall is evidence for many scientists that climate change is upon us. The chaotic weather patterns are of major concern to those in the agriculture business, and Dr. Laszlo Kovacs, professor of biology at Missouri State University, wants to conserve plant genetic resources needed for sustainable agricultural practices to ensure ample supply of crops in the future.
“Many people don’t know that for major agriculture plants, we rely heavily on the wild progenitors, or ancestors, of these plants,” said Kovacs.
He explained that over time, the wild plants will evolve and adapt. Genetic diversity is incredibly important to having a crop that can withstand changes in the natural environment, noted Kovacs, but some wild plant populations become isolated or decline due to the widely variable seasons.
“Most of our crops are bred for conditions that are ideal for those crops to grow, and we assume that there will always be irrigation water and that the climate will be fairly stable,” Kovacs said. “But the climate is changing. It’s chaotic. Now, maybe the emphasis should not be on breeding crops that would produce high yields under optimal conditions but instead on breeding plants that would be producing reliably under very wet and very dry conditions.”
Kovacs will present a free public lecture, “How Sustainable Food Production Relies on Natural Plant Biodiversity,” March 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Temple Hall 002. The presentation will focus on how the subject of his research, the rock grape, has been used to solve some formidable agricultural problems in the past. However, this grape has been in decline in much of its native area due to human impact on the environment, and Kovacs believes that everyone should be concerned about what happens if the species is lost completely.
“The next generation of grape producers will desperately need the genetic variation in these wild grapes,” he added.
Kovacs’ presentation is part of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences’ public lecture series.
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