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Study: Rising CO2 levels could affect wheat

Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be both good and bad for wheat, according to a new study.

Researchers reporting in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that a much higher level of carbon dioxide, or CO2, could increase wheat yields but slightly reduce its nutritional quality.

More CO2 in the atmosphere could produce more droughts and hotter temperatures. That could be advantageous because plants use the gas to make food by photosynthesis, the study said.

As the study noted, wheat is one of the world's most important crops, and is a major ingredient in foods such as bread, pasta and pastries. Wheat in raised much of the Upper Midwest, and, along with corn and soybeans, are the region's three major crops.

The study also noted that scientists already knew that elevated CO2 can increase wheat yields at the expense of nitrogen and protein count, but that the full range of change is unknown. Researchers wanted a better understanding of how elevated CO2 affects wheat during its formation and at maturity.

In the study, researchers grew durum wheat in greenhouses at both elevated and normal CO2 levels. Exposure to elevated CO2 levels "significantly increased above ground biomass and grain yield components," while diminishing nitrogen content as well as protein and free amino acids, according to the study.

The effects of elevated CO2 levels could be amplified by other changes such as drought or limited nitrogen availability, researchers said.

Read the study, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, at https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.jafc.9b01594.

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