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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Plant Breeding to Mitigate Climate Change-Present Status and Opportunities with an Assessment of Winter Wheat Cultivation in Northern Europe as an Example

Johansson, Eva; Muneer, Faraz; Prade, Thomas


Crop yield has been a major target of plant breeding, although resistance and quality have also been important. The current climate change is calling for breeding actions to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The present review focuses on opportunities from plant breeding to mitigate climate change while simultaneously securing yield and food requirements, as exemplified by winter wheat cultivation in Northern Europe. Therefore, we review the history of traditional plant breeding, the impact of climate change on crops and implications for plant breeding, opportunities to use plant breeding as a tool to mitigate climate change, and then we assess the estimated mitigation effects from plant breeding and discuss their impact on climate effects. Nitrogen uptake efficiency (NUpE) was indicated as the character with the highest potential to contribute to climate change mitigation, with positive effects also from increased straw length and stubble heights, while increased total biomass yield (root or above-ground) showed less effect. In addition to contributing to climate change mitigation, NUpE might increase profitability for growers and decrease nitrogen leakage from agricultural fields. An increase in NUpE by 15% through plant breeding has the potential to result in reduced GHG emissions corresponding to 30% of the fossil fuel use in agriculture in Sweden.


carbon sequestration; crop production; greenhouse gas emissions; nutrient use efficiency; sustainability

Published in

2023, Volume: 15, number: 16, article number: 12349