Whenever we visit our local supermarket or convenience store, we expect our favourite foods to be readily available and sitting on the shelves. But what if our favourite foods and ingredients were to become scarce, and not available to buy so easily?
Should we be in anyway concerned about the continued supply of foods that we eat regularly?
We eat a relatively small number of foods, with just 15 plants providing 90% of the world’s calories, even though there are more than 7,000 edible plant species. Farming production tends to concentrate on just a few commercial varieties.
All plants are part of an eco-system, and as habitats change and disappear – largely due to farming in developing regions of the planet – or come under pressure through climate change, it can be difficult to predict what effect this will have on food security. Is a staple food such as Wheat at risk from climate change?
Wheat is the most important cereal crop for the UK, supermarket shelves are filled with flour, bread, pasta, and other staple foods. More extreme weather patterns – wetter and warmer – are making life much more difficult for the UK’s arable farmers.
The UK’s 2020 wheat harvest was down by nearly 18%. A very wet autumn in 2019 made it hard for farmers to get seed sown, spring 2020 presented exceptionally dry conditions, so crops planted in the early spring lacked rain. Moreover, heavy rain severely disrupted 2020’s autumn harvest.
Climate change is creating more extreme weather events more frequently. This brings drought conditions, flooding and creates challenges for farmers to manage these conditions and successfully produce high yielding crops. These environmental issues have created some concerns for our most popular ingredients and the need to find viable long-term solutions.
Wheat will remain the UK’s mainstay, although farmers will have to change what they do, and consider resilience and sustainability. This might involve growing wheat in rotation with other crops and looking at different types of plant protein crops.
Consider more varied diets that utilise a full range of what is available in terms of breads and grains. Increasing the use of beans and other pulses such as lentils to encourage the growth of different types of plant protein such as beans, peas, and soya. These simple actions can help ensure that the future supply of wheat can continue to meet consumer demand.