Rising CO2 levels may cut crop nutrient levels
"You have an open agricultural field that looks like any other except that in the middle of the field you have rings of carbon dioxide-emitting jets. At the center of the ring you have a sensor that tells you the CO2 concentration and the wind direction. When the CO2 falls below your prescribed level the upwind jets emit some more CO2 to keep it at a constant level," Myers said.
These crops were grown in identical conditions to crops grown outside the ring in terms of weather, pests, pathogens and soil nutrients, with CO2 concentration as the only variable. The scientists then compared nutrient content using those crops grown in matching plots without the added CO2.
Leakey said rice, wheat and soybeans made more sugars through photosynthesis at the elevated CO2 levels and produced about 15 percent more seeds but had decreases in zinc and iron content.
He said more work is needed to nail down the details of why higher CO2 levels drive down the nutrients. He also said it will be important to study how crops in tropical countries will respond to elevated CO2 and other aspects of global environmental change.
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