We have been talking about global warming lately, and implicitly of carbon dioxide as being one of the gases associated with it. We have also been talking about carbon dioxide’s indirect effect on warming through the modification it brings to trees, but never has the carbon dioxide been associated with crop plants’ nutritional values before, which affect us, humans, directly.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis have recently discovered that high CO2 levels could mess up the plants’ ability to convert nitrate into proteins, reducing their nutritional qualities. The scientists suggest that new types of fertilizers should counteract the rising levels of CO2 in the future.
They studied how two important forms of soil nitrogen (nitrate and ammonium) affected wheat and the mustard plant, Arabidopsis, while they had been exposed to high CO2 levels.
Those crops exposed to CO2 had a reduced ability to produce nitrogen-containing compounds, including proteins. “Wheat grain that has been exposed to conditions that we expect in the next few decades declines about 20 percent,” said Arnold Bloom, lead author of the study, published in the journal Science. As CO2 levels rise, the scientists said, there will be an increased urgency for farmers to carefully manage nitrogen to assure the productivity and quality of crops.
Producing lower quality crops is yet another alarm signal that the Earth through its ecosystems gives us. Urgent modifications of our lifestyles are needed, and I’m afraid the planet’s own feedback system will counteract before we do… who knows how?