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CO2 endangers future crops

The beneficial effects on crops of additional carbon dioxide will be more than outweighed by the negative effects on plant growth of temperature, variable rainfall, increased pests and increased ozone in a CO2-enriched world, botanist Stephen Long says. In an interview with the online publication Yale Environment 360, Dr Long, professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois, said that lab research showing boosts to crop yields through increased CO2 only tells part of the story. Put those crops into field conditions, and those same CO2 increases bring with them increased temperatures, reduced or more variable rainfall, and increased pest pressures. “So, for example, at carbon dioxide levels predicted for 2050, in the laboratory you might get a 30 percent rise in yields of soybean, but we were seeing yield increases of under 15 per cent in the field,” Dr Long told journalist Olive Heffernan. “And in the case of maize, we didn’t see any increase at all.” There appear to be no easy answers. Science has reached the biophysical limits of the technologies introduced with the Green Revolution, but Dr Long thinks there may be room to push up the efficiency of photosynthesis. He and his research team will explore that avenue using a US$25 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “The Land” http://www.theland.com.au/news/nationalrural/cropping/general-news/co2-endangers-future-crops/2646506.aspx

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