Africa's food crops are currently in danger, and if certain parts of agriculture in sub-Saharan areas of the continent do not undergo a transformation soon, they will fail to survive into the future. The new findings come from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds that reveals the dangers that African crops are facing due to climate change, with maize, beans and bananas facing the highest risk.

The study is the first of its kind to allocate time frames for suggested policy changes and practices that will maintain production levels and dodge the current risk posed to food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

"This study tells where, and crucially when, interventions need to be made to stop climate change destroying vital food supplies in Africa," said Julian Ramirez-Villegas, lead author of the study.

After examining the likely effect of different climate change scenarios on Africa's most important crops on a region-by-region basis, the team found that although six of the nine crops studied will likely remain stable under moderate or extreme climate change scenarios, other won't be so lucky.

In particular, up to 30 percent of regions growing maize and bananas and up to 60 percent of those producing beans will become unviable by the end of the century; some regions will need changes to take effect as soon as 2025 if they hope to be productive in the future.

Transformations that will help these regions survive include changing the type of crops grown in certain regions, improving irrigation systems and in certain extreme situations, completely removing agricultural activity from the area to let it recover.

"Agriculture needs to be flexible as it responds to climate change, and this study shows where and when transformations will be needed," said Andy Challinor, a coauthor of the study. "The study predicts that within the next decade many maize- and banana-growing areas of sub-Saharan Africa will not be suitable for those crops."

He added: "Banana imports from sub-Saharan Africa to the U.K. have more than doubled since 2001, showing that this issue has implications well beyond Africa's borders. The places in which crops are grown will need to alter as climate changes. The key is to plan for those changes."

Some of the solutions, including breeding improved crops, can take a minimum of 15 years to complete, meaning action needs to be taken as soon as possible in order to save Africa's agriculture.

"It can take decades to adjust national agricultural development and food security policies," added Andy Jarvis, another coauthor of the study. "Our findings show that time is running out to transform African agriculture."

The findings were published in the Mar. 7 issue of Nature Climate Change.