In elevated ozone, plant growth is inhibited and results in shorter plants with less dense canopies. This can slow the growth and reproduction of certain pathogens. However, ozone also damages plant tissues that can help pathogens infect the plant more easily.
"Elevated levels of carbon dioxide and ozone can make a plant more susceptible to some diseases, but less susceptible to others," Eastburn said. "This is exactly what we've observed in our climate change experiments."
U of I's SoyFACE was the first facility to expose plants to elevated ozone under completely open-air conditions within an agricultural field.
"The SoyFACE facility allowed us to evaluate the influence of natural variability of meteorological factors such as drought and temperature in conjunction with imposed atmospheric composition (elevated carbon dioxide and ozone) on naturally occurring soybean diseases across several growing seasons," Eastburn said.
He believes rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns will also affect development of plant disease epidemics.
"In some cases, changes of only a few degrees have allowed plant diseases to become established earlier in the season, resulting in more severe disease epidemics," Eastburn said. "The ranges of some diseases are expanding as rising temperatures are allowing pathogens to overwinter in regions that were previously too cold for them."
For example, warmer winters may allow kudzu to expand its range northward. Because kudzu is an alternate host for the soybean rust pathogen, one result of rising temperatures may be that soybean rust arrives in Illinois earlier in the soybean growing season, Eastburn said.
"Information derived from climate change studies will help us prepare for the changes ahead by knowing which diseases are most likely to become more problematic," he said. "Now is the time for plant pat
|Contact: Jennifer Shike|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences