Protecting our future food from climate change

Temperatures are rising, weather patterns are changing, new pests and diseases are emerging, and human population is increasing. This is putting enormous pressure on agriculture. Kew is dedicated to finding a solution.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Rice growing in Nepal by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Rice is one of Nepal's most important crops

The consumption and cultivation of rice is a major part of the economy. But climate change is threatening rice production. Finding crops that are resilient to changing weather patterns is key. Our projects enabled Kew scientists to travel to Nepal.

 

Wild rice by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Collecting rice seeds in Nepal

Along with local partners, we set off on a journey from the banks of the East Rapti River in Nepal. Our teams sailed on canoes to reach some remote areas. We managed to collect wild seeds that are now kept at the gene bank in Nepal and our Millennium Seed Bank. 

 

Chickpeas and climate change by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Chickpea and climate change

Cultivated chickpeas flower early and produce high yields. But cultivation also means crops like these can no longer adapt to climate change. In some areas, drought could lead to yield losses of 50%. The chickpea needs to be more resilient to water shortages.

 

Chickpeas and climate change by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Family matters

Could the answer lie with the chickpea’s relatives? By crossing wild relatives with crop plants, breeders want to develop new varieties that can tolerate the impacts of climate change. During one of our projects we collected the wild relatives of chickpea.

Arabica coffee by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Coffee – the world’s most popular drink

We consume an estimated 500 billion cups each year. Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) originates from the cool tropical forests of Ethiopia and makes up around 65% of global production. 

 

Naturally dried forest coffee by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Problems with coffee production


Climate change is disrupting coffee production. Crops are failing. Some pests and diseases are becoming more prevalent because of rising temperatures. All of this is leading to lower revenues for farmers. A Kew study predicted the impact of climate change on wild coffee forests.

 

Arabica coffee production by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Looking for solutions

We embarked on a collaborative project called ‘Building a climate-resilient coffee economy for Ethiopia’. Years of research, travel and analysis are leading up to something exciting - a climate-resilient coffee economy strategy. 

 

Coffee and climate change by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Ripe banana by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Bananas under threat

We love bananas. 5 billion bananas are consumed every year in the UK alone. But Cavendish bananas (Musa acuminata), the most widely consumed variety, are vulnerable because of the lack of genetic diversity. A pest or disease could kill off the entire species. 

Madagascar banana by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Kew's research with wild crop varieties

The Madagascar banana (Ensete perrieri) is a wild relative. Its large seeds make it commercially unviable. But genetic diversity held within the seed could help find genes to develop disease-resistant crops. We undertook an extinction risk assessment at Kew. 

 

The hairy pink banana by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Meet the hairy banana

Can you guess why we grow these at Kew Gardens?

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