University of Florida Working on Egyptian Wheat Production

Randall Weiseman Florida

Wheat field in Turkey 2018

By Breanna Kendrick

The University of Florida is developing simulation software that calculates crop growth to estimate yields for different crops in varying environments. These modeling tools can be run on computers quickly and can calculate how a yield might change in future climates.

Senthold Asseng is a professor at the University of Florida who develops mathematical modeling and computer simulation tools for agricultural and biological systems related to climate variability, climate change and sustainability.

Asseng is currently researching how Egypt can develop new irrigation areas to address increased food demand due to population growth. He is also studying the effect of future climate change on yields.

Together with colleagues from Egypt, Asseng works with computer tools to see if Egypt would be able to produce enough wheat in the future. Wheat is the most important crop in the world. Egypt imports more wheat than any other country, about half of what it produces.

Egypt is mainly desert land; all of the crops it produces need irrigation. The Egyptians are aware that they can’t produce enough food because of a huge increase in population. They want to know if they can extend their irrigated area to improve their crop production. They also want to know if they can produce enough wheat to eliminate the need to import it from other countries.

“We use these computer models for simulating yields and apply them to current areas, new areas and under future climate-change scenarios to estimate future wheat production,” explains Asseng. “What we found is that with expanding irrigation and growing crops more intensively, yes, they will be probably able to produce enough for their country for the next 15 to 20 years.”

However, Asseng is concerned it won’t be enough after the 2030s. Reasons include:

  • The wheat demand is increasing faster than the Egyptians can produce it because of population growth.
  • Climate change will negatively affect the crops.
  • Temperatures will increase, reducing yields.

Asseng points out that we are all connected in the world. In particular, with wheat, we are closely connected with Egypt through the markets.

“Working together in international research networks, like AgMIP, the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, which brings together more than 1,000 scientists from across the world to understand and solve global food security issues affected by climate change, will be critical in the future,” suggests Asseng. “Here at the University of Florida, we are involved in many international research activities, including AgMIP, to advance our science and produce the next scientists to help solve the problems the world is facing.”