British researchers, writing in the Current Biology journal, say that growing crop varieties that reflect more sunlight into space could cool much of Europe, North America and parts of North Asia by up to one degree Celsius during the summer growing season.

"We found that different varieties of most food crops do differ in how much solar energy is reflected back to space,"  said Andy who led the study. "The more energy you reflect back to space the cooler the air temperatures will be."

Previous research has shown that wheat, maize, barley and sorghum reflect solar energy differently, depending on either how waxy a plant’s surface is, how the leaves are arranged or how hairy they are. The same probably holds true of all food crops,

"The idea is you could continue to grow maize, for example, but you could grow a variety that has a bigger climate benefit," Ridgwell said. "You could use selective breeding for climate characteristics. This seems very doable without spending lots of money."

The effect would occur mainly in Europe, North America and Northern Asia where most of the world’s croplands are located.