Selection for earlier flowering crop associated with climatic variations in the Sahel

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Climate changes will have an impact on food production and will require costly adaptive responses. Adapting to a changing environment will be particularly challenging in sub-Saharan Africa where climate change is expected to have a major impact. However, one important phenomenon that is often overlooked and is poorly documented is the ability of agro-systems to rapidly adapt to environmental variations. Such an adaptation could proceed by the adoption of new varieties or by the adaptation of varieties to a changing environment. In this study, we analyzed these two processes in one of the driest agro-ecosystems in Africa, the Sahel. We performed a detailed study in Niger where pearl millet is the main crop and covers 65% of the cultivated area. To assess how the agro-system is responding to recent recurrent drought, we analyzed samples of pearl millet landraces collected in the same villages in 1976 and 2003 throughout the entire cultivated area of Niger.