Skip to main content

The Crazy Crop Conundrum! Climate Edition

Main Image
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Main Image
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Activity Language
Time Needed for Activity

Many environmental factors can impact plant growth, and as a farmer, you will have to look for genetic modifications that can help you grow the best crop this year!

When eating your breakfast this morning, did you stop to think about the amount of research that goes into creating the perfect food for you? Plant breeding is one area where biotechnology is being used to develop better food crops. Conventional selective breeding techniques and genetic engineering are widely used in agriculture to increase the nutritional content and yield (amount of crop that is produced) of Canada’s major crops. The amount of sunlight, rainfall, local pests and weeds are just a few of the environmental factors that farmers need to consider when choosing the best crop variety for their fields.

What You Need

  • Activity script for each volunteer
  • Scenario cards – cut out and laminate
  • Corn, soy bean, canola and wheat cards – cut out and laminate
  • Information cards on the Corn Borer, White Mold, BT Gene, Blackleg, Winter Wheat and Fusarium – cut out and laminate descriptions and pictures separately
  • Answer sheets for each of the teams
  • Heat Unit Map - laminated
  • Climate Extension Activity Worksheets
  • Samples of corn, soy beans and wheat (optional)
  • Magnifying glasses (optional)

Activity Guide: 

Offline Resources:

What To Do

  • Each team will be given 5 agriculture scenarios with clues to their crop needs.
  • Students will read scenarios out loud to their team.
  • A set of clues for each team will be laid out on the table.
  • Students work as a team using the clues provided to determine which crop best suits each. There is only one correct solution.
  • The first team to find the correct solution wins the challenge.

Directions – Climate Extension Activity

  • Give students the climate activity extension activity worksheet. This can be done individually, in groups, or as a take-home activity. Access to a device with internet to complete research is ideal.
  • Tell them to choose a crop from the activity or a different crop grown in their region to assess. This resource summarizes crops grown in each province and territory.
  • Using the selected crop, fill out the table on the worksheet.
  • The Canada Atlas Map is a great resource to investigate the impact of climate change on environmental factors such as, crop heat units and frost-free period. Tell students to set the year to 2051-2080 and the climate change setting to more. Investigate the different environmental parameters, such as coldest minimum temperature, frost-free season, corn heat units, heavy precipitation says, warmest maximum temperature. Next, tell students to set the year to recent past. Investigate the same environmental factors as they did on the future map. What differences are there? Have students write down what they observe about the maps on a scrap piece of paper or on the back of the worksheet. Students are also encouraged to watch the accompanying videos on the map.
  • If students do not have internet access, you can provide them with the offline resources document(s).

Set-up & running the activity

  • Use paperclips to attach ‘clues’ to a few of the scenario cards:
    • Scenario B – White mold picture
    • Scenario C – Core Borer picture
    • Scenario D – Fusarium picture
  • Lay out all the crop cards on the table, as well as the information cards and Heat Unit Map.
  • Read instructions from the Script to your group of students.
  • Hand out each student a Scenario Card, and give each team an answer sheet.
  • Start the timer.
  • Once the team has all of their answers written down you can mark their sheet and put a check-mark beside each crop they have correctly matched. If they have some wrong, give them their sheet back and tell them to keep going!
  • Once all their answers are correct record their time. If they matched all five crops correctly on their first guess, you can deduct 20s from their score.
  • Provide students with the climate extension activity.

Discovery

Many environmental factors can impact plant growth. Biotechnology is widely used in agriculture to produce better food crops. Plant breeding is one method that is used to grow plants that have specific genetic traits that make them better suited to their environment (such as resistance to disease and drought). Genetic engineering is also used to add specific genes to a plant to make them better, such as making them tolerant to certain types of herbicide.

Tolerance

In this case, tolerance means the plant is able to withstand it, whether it be a disease or a herbicide (i.e., the disease or herbicide does not affect it if it is tolerant).

Crop Heat Units

  • Heat units only apply to corn and soy beans, as their growth is dependent on how much heat (i.e., sunlight) is available during their growing.
  • Cool temperatures slow down growth, and high temperatures allow the plants to grow.
  • A heat unit rating for a particular region depends on how many frost-free days there are during the growing season, and what the average temperature is throughout the growing season.
  • The best crops for a particular region will have a crop heat unit rating within the range calculated for that particular region.

Discussion Questions

What sort of environmental factors affected what type of crop you wanted to use?

Location (amount of sunlight), predators, weeds, soil moisture.

Do you think that using plant breeding and genetic modification is a good thing or bad thing? 

Good qualities: increase crop yield/food supply; more durable crops; increase the quality of the final product (i.e., more nutritious)

How may climate change impact environmental factors?

Droughts, heavy rainfalls, extreme weather, warmer temperatures, more CO2 in atmosphere, increased frost-free period. 

What are some other technologies besides biotechnology that may help mitigate climate change impacts or prevent further climate change?

  • Digital farming, uses satellites, AI, remote sensors, to monitor plant health and environmental conditions
  • Gas capture technology for livestock and manure
  • Crop rotation strategies

Climate change can have a significant impact on crop growth, and it is important for everyone to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Plant breeding, genetic modification, crop rotation, gas capture and digital farming techniques can help mitigate the impact of climate change and help secure the global food supply for years to come.

By developing and implementing sustainable agriculture practices and technology, we are working towards the SDG (sustainable development) goal 2: zero hunger. 

What's Happening?

Many environmental factors can impact plant growth. Biotechnology is widely used in agriculture to produce better food crops. Plant breeding is one method that is used to grow plants that have specific genetic traits that make them better suited to their environment (such as resistance to disease and drought). Genetic engineering is also used to add specific genes to a plant to make them better, such as making them tolerant to certain types of herbicide.

Tolerance

In this case, tolerance means the plant is able to withstand it, whether it be a disease or a herbicide (i.e., the disease or herbicide does not affect it if it is tolerant).

Crop Heat Units

  • Heat units only apply to corn and soy beans, as their growth is dependent on how much heat (i.e., sunlight) is available during their growing.
  • Cool temperatures slow down growth, and high temperatures allow the plants to grow.
  • A heat unit rating for a particular region depends on how many frost-free days there are during the growing season, and what the average temperature is throughout the growing season.
  • The best crops for a particular region will have a crop heat unit rating within the range calculated for that particular region.

Discussion Questions

What sort of environmental factors affected what type of crop you wanted to use?

Location (amount of sunlight), predators, weeds, soil moisture.

Do you think that using plant breeding and genetic modification is a good thing or bad thing? 

Good qualities: increase crop yield/food supply; more durable crops; increase the quality of the final product (i.e., more nutritious)

How may climate change impact environmental factors?

Droughts, heavy rainfalls, extreme weather, warmer temperatures, more CO2 in atmosphere, increased frost-free period. 

What are some other technologies besides biotechnology that may help mitigate climate change impacts or prevent further climate change?

  • Digital farming, uses satellites, AI, remote sensors, to monitor plant health and environmental conditions
  • Gas capture technology for livestock and manure
  • Crop rotation strategies

Why Does It Matter?

Climate change can have a significant impact on crop growth, and it is important for everyone to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Plant breeding, genetic modification, crop rotation, gas capture and digital farming techniques can help mitigate the impact of climate change and help secure the global food supply for years to come.

By developing and implementing sustainable agriculture practices and technology, we are working towards the SDG (sustainable development) goal 2: zero hunger.