Over the next 50 years, harvests of staple crops like rice, maize and wheat may be reduced by one- third due to global warming. This has been revealed by a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report published recently.

The document brings to the fore the fact that rising temperature adversely affects the ability of crops to flower and produce seed. It sounds a warning that the crops yields may decline by 10 per cent for every degree centigrade increase in temperature. In Uganda, the area for growing robusta coffee would be reduced with only the high mountains cool enough for the crop. As a result of the rising mercury, the Kenyan tea belt would move upwards and pose a risk for the sensitive forests and wildlife, including water supplies.

This UNEP report is based on work by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. And the key man, John Sheehy, who led the research team making this report, says, "One possible research solution is to find genes which will make flowering occur during the cool of the early morning.'

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