One third of the world’s population live in drylands, facing huge stresses such as frequent droughts and poor soil fertility. Climate change will further worsen the situation. Agriculture in the dryland regions is dominated by subsistence farming based on crop-livestock systems that mostly include climate-resilient crops naturally adapted for growth and production under dry conditions. The four dryland cereal crops provide food, feed and fodder in the crop-livestock systems in many of the dryland regions, and continue to be staple food.
The dryland cereals perform a vital food security function because they are the only crops hardy enough to produce yields reliably despite frequent droughts, high temperatures and poor soils that other cereals cannot tolerate. Improving the productivity and production of dryland cereal crops increases food supplies while moderating food costs – directly increasing food security. Dryland Cereals places strong emphasis on further improving yield stability by breeding varieties that cope better with drought, high temperatures, poor soil fertility and high salinity; and with biotic stresses such as insect pests and diseases.