Warning: The Wheat’s Too Warm
An Israeli evolutionary biologist finds hard evidence of global warming in the changes he’s found in wheat and barley plants.
The 28-year comparative study he conducted and published with colleagues shows that wild emmer wheat and wild barley — the progenitors of the staple crops for humans and animals across the world — have undergone worrying changes caused by global warming.
Prof. Eviatar (Eibi) Nevo, founder of the University of Haifa’s Institute of Evolution and director of its International Graduate Center of Evolution, warns that these changes put at risk the continued improvement and production of cereal grains because of genetic deterioration and increased susceptibility to environmental stresses.
‘Multiple effects of the global warming phenomenon have been observed in many species of plants and animals,’ he says. ‘But this study is pioneering in showing its influence on flowering and genetic changes in wild cereals. These changes threaten the best genetic resource for crop improvement and thereby may damage food production.’
Nevo is well aware that not all scientists acknowledge global warming, but he tells ISRAEL21c that ‘no other significant factors could be responsible’ for the changes he documented in the article written with Israeli and Canadian co-researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
‘We studied 10 wheat and 10 barley populations and all showed a dramatic change in flowering time that cannot be explained by any other factor,’ he stresses. ‘These cereal progenitors are adapting their time of flowering to escape the increasing heat.’