All farmers know they’ll have to endure the occasional dry period, but what has happened to the American Midwest this summer has been practically biblical. By the end of July, over 60% of the U.S. was experiencing some form of drought–the most in more than half a century. Corn yields fell by at least 16%, and prices rose to record highs as farmers confronted fields of dust. Scariest of all, the drought of 2012, which could eventually cost as much as $18 billion, may be just a taste of what’s to come in a hotter, drier future. Climate models suggest broadly that dry areas will become drier as the planet warms—and that could be seriously bad news for America’s breadbasket, especially in the already arid areas of the Western breadbasket.
Farmers and crop companies are struggling to figure out ways to cope with severe drought. Changing the weather is still beyond us—though some countries like China are trying—but what if there were a way to breed crops that could use water more efficiently, thriving even in times of drought?