Intensified by COVID-19, conflict, and climate change, hunger is a reality for hundreds of millions of people and a fear for many more. A new study by Northwestern University suggests that breadfruit could come to the rescue.
According to the authors, including TTFF board member Dr. Nyree Zerega, breadfruit is climate-resilient, unlike other staple crops like soy, corn, and rice. It also grows well in areas hit hardest by hunger – tropical and sub-Saharan regions that are getting steadily warmer.
“Breadfruit trees can live for decades and provide a large amount of fruits each year. In some cultures, there is a tradition to plant a breadfruit tree when a child is born to ensure the child will have food for the rest of their life,” said Zerega, the director of the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation, which is a partnership between Northwestern and the Chicago Botanic Garden.
The study says that breadfruit may be able to withstand drought for 3-4 months once established. It confirms that breadfruit can also fend off heat better than other crops. It is a perennial, so it doesn’t have to be replanted. And it captures carbon throughout its lifetime.
After the researchers studied the climate conditions required to cultivate breadfruit, they examined six model projections of how the climate will change in the future and where breadfruit trees will still grow. New areas will become suitable for breadfruit, while currently suitable areas are likely to shrink. Beyond the Caribbean and Latin America, they pointed out Africa, where TTFF’s efforts are expanding.
Given the decades-long lifetime of fruit trees, TTFF tries to encourage long-term planning with this in mind. We hope that governments and community leaders will take notice of this important paper. It highlights the opportunity we have right now to make substantial change in the future.
TTFF is grateful to the researchers who report on the benefits of breadfruit. And we’re ever thankful to all of you who are helping us feed the hungry people of today and tomorrow.
This study, Potential of breadfruit cultivation to contribute to climate-resilient low latitude food systems, was published by PLOS Climate on August 17, 2022. You can find this and other relevant academic papers on our website.
Range of current (1970-2000) breadfruit suitability in the global tropics and subtropics.
Future (2061–2080) breadfruit suitability range and change under stabilization and high-emission scenarios.