Sao Paulo — When a TV crew visited Denise Cardoso’s farm in northeastern Brazil, she and her grandfather cut open the chunky roots of an umbu tree to show how it stores water, even during drought.

The natural process they were demonstrating on that day four years ago normally guarantees the tree’s survival in the semi-arid climate of the Caatinga, a biome that covers more than 10% of Brazil's territory...

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