In a context of unprecedented climate change and food insecurity, adaptation in agricultural systems is critical in Africa. It is crucial to breed new varieties of staple crops that are adapted to deal with climatic conditions. This work is a key climate adaptation measure and an important part of international research and development programmes.

Crops have been specifically developed to be resistant to climate-related stresses like drought. There have been impressive advances in the capabilities of crop-breeding programmes as a result of recent investments. An example of this is the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa initiative. But a new study finds that the new crop varieties that are being developed are struggling to cope with the rate of climatic change.

The study uses crop models and climate change projections to analyse the rate of change in key climate indicators associated with maize. Maize is Africa's most widely grown crop and the main staple for more than 300 million people across the continent.

Maize can be particularly sensitive to climate and management conditions. It is subject to crop failures, which disproportionately affect those with little capacity to invest in inputs like improved seeds and fertilisers, and irrigation.