From the Farm: Climate change and crops

Local News

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — On the day that the U.S. officially departed from the Paris Climate Agreement, the University of Illinois released a lengthy study about the impact of climate on crops. 

Globally renowned U. of I. Crop Scientist Stephen Long says a changing climate has both positive and negative impacts on important crop.

“On this site, we have the longest-running experiments in the world and the largest experiments in the world looking at the impact of global change on our major food crops,” says Long. “We have been studying soybean on this site now for almost 20 years looking at how rising carbon dioxide, rising temperature will impact the crop.

“What we have found is that rising carbon dioxide does actually boost the yield of soybean, although it lowers the quality of that seed, particularly mineral nutrients are lower in the seed. However, the other thing we have found is the 2 degree Celsius temperature rise we expect to happen with rising carbon dioxide wipes out all of that gain and actually lowers the yield.”

It would take a long time, but would biotechnology be able to overcome that yield loss?

“Biotechnology with breeding it would be possible to overcome some of these problems, but if we are going to do that, we need to start now,” Long says. “We can’t wait for these changes to occur, have a loss in soybean yields, without starting to address this. I should also say we have looked at corn on this site. Corn shows no response to rising carbon dioxide, except from drought conditions, where it can be slightly better off.”

Long says the only way around the problem is for a reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions. 

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