Rising Levels of Carbon Dioxide Could Both Hurt and Help Crops

The crops that are grown globally, and sustain close to 4.5 billion people worldwide, are wheat, maize, rice, and soybeans. With these crops sustaining more than half of the world’s population, how are they not apart of the bigger conversation surrounding the rising levels of carbon dioxide?

In an article by Samson Reiny, published on NASA’s website, he discusses the fact that rising levels of carbon dioxide could both, simultaneously, help and harm the four crops listed above. He makes the argument that, so far, climate prediction models have only taken into account the effect that carbon dioxide will have on yields and not the effect they have on water efficiency, and even then are only measuring temperate climates. He reports on a simulation conducted by a Delphine Deryng in which the yields and evapotranspiration were manipulated to “to estimate crop water productivity” by using a measurement of yield that was produced per unit of water. In total, there were 30 simulations, six of which were using data from “five different global climate models” which assumed the carbon dioxide levels that were reported in 2000 had doubled by 2080. Another simulation models used assumed that the carbon dioxide levels had remained stagnant since 2000.

The simulation crops that operated at the 2000 carbon dioxide levels the yields suffered dramatically. However, with the doubled carbon dioxide levels predicted at 2080 both yields and water efficiency had a dramatic increase. These increases, however, depend upon regions and whether the crops were irrigated or rain fed. For example, Reiny discusses maize in terms of losses with the doubled carbon dioxide, due to the crop’s already efficiency of photosynthesis, maize would yield 15% less in areas using irrigation and 8% in rain fed areas. However, these losses would close to double without the doubling of carbon dioxide in the simulation, and the assumed doubling of carbon dioxide since 2000 would reveal that wheat would show crop yield increases “across the board”. These yields would be 8% increased with a 50% increase in water efficiency in rain fed areas.

Essentially, there needs to be far more research done about carbon dioxide and its effects, but the four most globally powerful crops need to be apart of that conversation. Through these simulations there has been discovered that a lot more research has yet to be done on the effect of carbon dioxide on these crops, but more so in developing countries that tend to have drier and more arid climates instead of the temperate climates of the west. Our climate models, and models for how we plan to feed future generations, need to include the countries that are not apart of the western hemisphere. How would any climate or environmental model be accurate if we exclude them?


4 thoughts on “Rising Levels of Carbon Dioxide Could Both Hurt and Help Crops

  1. I found this article interesting, because it not only looks at the short-term effect carbon dioxide has on crop yield, but also its long-term effects. I was shocked to see the difference between irrigated crops and rain-fed crops due to the impact of carbon dioxide. However, it would be interesting to research a way to provide a similar yield for irrigated crops, compared to rain-fed crops. I agree with your statement that research needs to be done domestically and abroad to save our crops.

  2. It was very interesting to read about the negative, and positive effects CO2 levels have on certain crops. However, I do agree that more research needs to be conducted about CO2. From reading all these posts, we can see that CO2 does a variety of damage in many different areas of our environment. I also think it would be interesting to research the effect that CO2 concentration has in different parts of the world. Different climates must react differently to these effects, and I think it would be fascinating to research more about that.

  3. I did not realize the effect CO2 levels could have on such important crops in our society. The main focus when talking about CO2 is always the atmosphere and the way it has altered our ecosystem. It seems as though CO2 has a domino effect on everything we need to maintain a sustainable environment. Overall, I found your argument very interesting and people definitely need to become more aware of the issue.

  4. This is definitely an interesting take on levels of CO2 helping and hurting crops. I am curious to know about the rate of CO2 in each of these models in comparable to the rate that CO2 is currently at. I think that scientists even at NASA need to be carful when they manipulate numbers regarding the “yields and evapotranspiration”. I do agree with you that these crops that are so powerful and relied on should be apart of the current CO2 conversation.

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