In the newly established consortium, Climate Change, the focus is to bring together national, regional and international experts that can add value to the many challenges climate change is posing. The recent 2015/2016 El Niño-induced drought has devastated grain production. Climate projections suggest heat stress is going to become an increasing threat to grain production in Southern Africa.
Improved germplasm will play a vital component of adaptation strategies. Other research objectives includes investigating performance of C3 and C4 plants under elevated CO2 and elevated temperatures. A high priority here is to gain access to quality seed through public-private multi-stakeholder collaboration for all grains and oilseeds.
The Open Top Chamber Facility for Elevated CO2 Research based at Rhodes University will be used for the investigation on how plants respond to the elevated carbon dioxide condition of the near future. The facility was built from funding from the DST Global Change Grand Challenges Research Plan, the NRF National Equipment Fund, Working for Water and the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (Access) and Sandisa Imbewu. The initial project will research the response of South African maize varieties to severe drought, C4 plant response to drought with the aim of informing crop models about important interactions of drought and elevated CO2. This will help annual yield predictions of the maize crop more robust.