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'Business as usual' crop development won't satisfy future demand
Date:7/7/2010

URBANA Although global grain production must double by 2050 to address rising population and demand, new data from the University of Illinois suggests crop yields will suffer unless new approaches to adapt crop plants to climate change are adopted. Improved agronomic traits responsible for the remarkable increases in yield accomplished during the past 50 years have reached their ceiling for some of the world's most important crops.

"Global change is happening so quickly that its impact on agriculture is taking the world by surprise," said Don Ort, U of I professor of crop sciences and USDA/ARS scientist. "Until recently, we haven't understood the urgency of addressing global change in agriculture."

The need for new technologies to conduct global change research on crops in an open-field environment is holding the commercial sector back from studying issues such as maximizing the elevated carbon dioxide advantage or studying the effects of ozone pollution on crops.

However, U of I's Free Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) research facility, SoyFACE, is allowing researchers to conduct novel studies using this technology capable of creating environments of the future in an open-field setting.

"If you want to study how global change affects crop production, you need to get out of the greenhouse," Ort said. "At SoyFACE, we can grow and study crops in an open-field environment where carbon dioxide and ozone levels can be raised to mimic future atmospheric conditions without disturbing other interactions."

From an agricultural standpoint, one of the few positive aspects of global change has been the notion that elevated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will stimulate photosynthesis and result in increased crop yields.

But recent studies show that crops grown in open fields under elevated carbon dioxide levels resulted in only half the yield increase expected and half of what the United Nation's Intergovernme
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Contact: Jennifer Shike
jshike@illinois.edu
217-244-0888
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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