There's no doubt that carbon dioxide levels are rising. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were 260 parts per million (ppm). Today, those numbers have increased to 385 ppm. By 2050, carbon dioxide levels are expected to be 600 ppm.
"Elevated carbon dioxide is creating a global warming effect that in turn is driving other climate change factors such as precipitation patterns," Ort said. "By 2050, rainfall during the Midwest growing season is projected to drop 30 percent."
U of I researchers are also studying how elevated ozone levels will affect crop yields.
Soybean plants are being evaluated in elevated ozone at SoyFACE. New studies show that yields in the tri-state area of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa have been suppressed by 15 percent due to ozone pollution. Ort said if the same cultivars of soybean are used in 2050 that are being planted now, producers can expect to see an additional 20 percent drop in yield due to expected increases in ozone levels by the middle of the century.
"Ozone is a secondary pollutant caused by the interaction of sunlight with pollution clouds produced in industrialized areas and carried over rural areas by wind," Ort said. "For example, if pollution from Chicago blows out of the city into agricultural areas, it can interact with sunlight to produce ozone and cause plant yields to suffer."
Because ozone is an unstable gas, its concentration levels vary greatly, Ort said. Thus, agricultural areas located near industrial areas will face the greatest challenges. Unfortunately, of the world's two top-growing areas for soybean the United States faces a much greater ozone challenge than Brazil.
"The SoyFACE experiment and historical data recorded over the past 10 years both indicate that for every additional one part per billion o
|Contact: Jennifer Shike|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences