Global Warming May Decrease Plant Yields

By Charlie Nardozzi

Much attention has been given to the possible ways plants will respond to the warming of global temperatures. Many scientists believe that plant growth will increase. New research from the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, in Gainesville, Florida, suggests that while plant growth may increase, the yield of seeds may decrease. This could have a dramatic effect on seed crops critical to our food supply.

Seed crops such as rice, grain, sorghum, kidney beans, soybeans, and peanuts were grown in greenhouses under natural sunlight. Researchers increased the temperatures in the greenhouses to four different levels to evaluate the effects.

Each crop was found to have an optimal mean daily temperature (OMDT) for seed yield. As temperatures rose, seed yields decreased about 6 percent for every 1 degree above the OMDT. While all the seed crops grown had decreased yields, kidney beans were the most sensitive. Pollination failure was the chief cause of yield declines.

Researchers suggest that breeding for heat tolerance should be a priority in the future to avoid crop declines as the planet warms.

For more information on this research, go to: Agricultural Research Service.

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