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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: RESPONSE AND ADAPTATION OF CROPS AND WEEDS TO ELEVATED C02 AND GLOBAL WARMING

Location: Crop Systems & Global Change

Title: Evolving CO2 hungry crops: Breeding plants that can convert more carbon dioxide to food could help feed a growing population

Authors
item Ziska, Lewis
item Howden, Mark

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: November 6, 2012
Publication Date: December 4, 2012
Citation: Ziska, L.H., Howden, M. 2012. Evolving CO2 hungry crops: Breeding plants that can convert more carbon dioxide to food could help feed a growing population. Popular Publication. Available: www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33530/title/Opinion--Evolving-CO2-Hungry-Crops/.

Technical Abstract: Here we sum up main findings from a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (B) and attempt to convey those findings in the larger context of scientific efforts by agricultural scientists to maintain food security at a time of unprecedented challenges. These challenges include an unstable climate, less arable land, increased competition for water and higher energy costs. We argue that active selection and breeding for carbon dioxide (CO2) responsiveness among cereal varieties may be a simple and direct strategy for increasing global yields. For example, even though the amount of CO2 has increased by 24% since 1960, no efforts have been made to actively select for greater CO2 responsiveness in crop varieties. Yet, studies examining the variability among crop lines have suggested that such an approach could boost plant seed yield by 10-30%. Overall, such a strategy could act as a "win-win" by converting additional anthropogenic CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, into seed yield, thus providing a means to maintain food security with minimal investment and risk. While this is by no means a complete solution, we believe that this type of innovation may act as an example of the type of innovations to provide farmers with new tools to ensure agricultural productivity with global uncertainty.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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