CO2 lowers rice quality, study says

by Fredrick Graves May 26, 2018, 15:39
CO2 lowers rice quality, study says

As carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth's atmosphere increase, the nutritional value of rice will decline, new research shows.

"If we do nothing, then yes, there is this potential for profound negative impacts on human health", said Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the authors of the study, which also involved researchers at institutions in China, Japan, Australia and the United States, including at the US Agriculture Department.

This is concerning to the 10 countries that rely heavily on rice as their main source of food and nutrition, and scientists don't know exactly why Carbon dioxide reduces plant nutrients.

Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions threaten to make rice less nutritious, scientists said in a study released Wednesday, raising a worrying possibility about the staple food item for billions of humans.

"This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century", said Kobayashi. They confirmed declines in protein, iron and zinc, as well as consistent declines in vitamin B, in all varieties, under increases of this greenhouse gas.

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"When you think about who consumes as a proportion of their diet the most starch, it generally is the poor, in all countries", Ebi said. Wheat, maize, rice, field peas and soybeans grown under high carbon dioxide conditions were found to have lower levels of protein and minerals. Iron content fell by an average of 8 percent and dropped by as much as 20 percent. Aside from energy-rich carbohydrates, grains feed us protein, zinc, iron and essential B vitamins.

The rice was grown at research sites in China and Japan, where researchers built 55-foot-wide plastic pipes elevated about a foot above the tops of plants within standard rice fields. Folate or vitamin B9 levels were down 30%. "So they're critically important, particularly for maternal and child health, but for all of us".

Some varieties of rice may not experience as severe of a nutrient loss as carbon dioxide levels go up. The level of nutrition in plants can also affect many other living things, even bees, pandas and koalas, who live on plants - the only nutrition they get.

Professor Furbank - based at the Australian National University - said researchers should now study and breed varieties that will yield quality - not just quantity in high Carbon dioxide environments.

"But there's also the negative effects of climate change in terms of more frequent drought [and] higher temperatures, which can tend to negate the positive benefit of extra carbon dioxide from a photosynthetic perspective". But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.

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