Sydney: An ancient rice gene can save food crops from the devastating effects of global warming, reveals a study.

The genetic diversity found by scientists is seen as a bulwark against climate change because some genes confer resistance to bacterial and fungal pathogens, both of which are known to attack plants under stress.

Robert Henry, professor from University of Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), who led the study, said there were global implications for this discovery.

'This finding will be useful in selecting crop varieties that can cope with a variable and changing climate,' he said, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported.

In a study conducted over more than 238 km of remote landscape, researchers from QAAFI and Southern Cross University compared wild cereal relatives growing in Australia with those found in the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture began in the cradle of civilisation, according to a university statement.

The Fertile Crescent is a geographical region that stretches more than 2,000 km from the Nile river in Egypt to the waters of the Persian Gulf in the east.