ARS plant physiologists, a molecular biologist and a geneticist have been working with University of Illinois
scientists on a project called “SoyFACE”—short for Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment—to measure how the projected increases in carbon dioxide (CO2
) and ozone will affect soybean production.
This research supports the US Department of Agriculture priority of responding to climate change.
Ozone hampers soybean potential
In their studies, the scientists found that soybean yields increase by about 12% at the elevated CO2 levels predicted for the year 2050 (550 parts per million) — only half of what previous studies estimated.
They also found that increased ozone is quite harmful to soybean yields, reducing them by about 20%.
In addition, current levels of ozone are already suppressing soybean yields by up to 15%, according to data from the ARS Photosynthesis Research Unit
in Urbana, Illinois.
These results led the scientists to examine the combined effects of CO2 and ozone changes on soybeans.
Carbondioxide offsets ozone damage
They found that elevated CO2 partially offsets the ozone damage, confirming general results obtained with open-top chamber studies conducted at other ARS laboratories.
The ability of SoyFACE technology to test effects of CO2 and ozone in the open air, without the environmental modifications caused by the chambers themselves, means greater confidence in understanding how plants respond in the real world, including the actual estimates of impact on crop yields.
FACE technology was first used for crop research by ARS scientists in Maricopa, Arizona, and cooperators.
There is much more to be learned about how other interacting factors that affect ozone uptake may come into play by mid-century.
Results from these studies will help breeders develop soybean varieties better adapted to the changing climate.
about this research in the November/December 2009 issue of Agricultural Research