Higher CO2 levels may help wheat

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 26, 2013 08:40 hrs

Sydney, Feb 26 (IANS) High carbon dioxide (CO2) levels caused by climate change might actually help wheat survive in drought like conditions, says an Australian research.

In the world's first ever study, doctoral student Eduardo Dias de Oliveira from the University of Western Australia (UWA), found that exposure of wheat to CO2, helps it cope better with high temperatures and water restrictions.

As long as the temperature does not rise two degrees Celsius (2C) more than average, combining the effects of elevated CO2 and high temperature with water restrictions actually improves biomass and grain yield, the journal Functioning Plant Biology.

Dias de Oliveira's finding could have significant impact on the future of crop production in the Mediterranean-type climatic wheat-growing regions of Australia, where climate change is expected to have a severe impact on annual yields of 20 million tonnes of wheat over the next 50 years.

Dias de Oliveira compared three scenarios in specially designed tunnel houses at UWA's Shenton Park Research Station with and without drought and elevated CO2 conditions at 2C, 4C and 6C above ambient temperature, according to an UWA statement.

Two bread-wheat genotypes, the vigorous line 38-19 and the non-vigorous cultivar Janz, were grown in the tunnel houses. Janz is a high yielding semi-dwarf cultivar.

Kadambot Siddique, professor and study co-author, said that while at 2C above ambient temperature, yields were indeed enhanced regardless of whether they were well-watered or not, the combination of elevated CO2 at 4C or 6C above the ambient temperature tended to decrease wheat biomass and grain yield.

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