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War is Causing a Wheat Supply Crisis, Can Food Security be Created With Alternative

Ongoing war in Ukraine has demonstrated just how dependent the world is on steady wheat supplies. Russia and Ukraine are the world’s top and fifth wheat exporters, respectively, collectively accounting for more than 20 percent of our global supply. This wheat mostly ends up in Africa and the Middle East, including Egypt, the world’s top importer that sources approximately 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

The war has sparked a grain shortage causing an “unprecedented food emergency” this year in the Sahel and West African regions, which is being made only worse by climate change-driven drought.

Countries are attempting to strengthen food security by increasing domestic wheat production - but the crop’s shallow root system makes it particularly susceptible to drought, sparking attempts to expand production into more resilient grains better suited to local cultivation.

So-called heritage grains, such as einkorn, which dates back to neolithic times and is known as the “original wheat”, are more adaptable and resistant to disease than modern wheat, with twice the minerals. Wild emmer is another heritage grain with a higher yield than einkorn that has been called “the best genetic hope” for improving today’s wheat strains. Another is Kernza - a new perennial grain developed by The Land Institute that has roots up to three meters deep - and millet, a staple in Asia and Africa that is adaptable to heat and drought, and can thrive in marginal soil.

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