Effects of ozone pollution threaten agricultural production on Long Island, NY, says Cornell plant pathologist

For at least the past two summers, high amounts of ground-level ozone a pollutant commonly called "smog" have seriously retarded the growth of ozone-sensitive white clover in agricultural areas of Long Island, N.Y., according to a plant pathologist at Cornell Universitys Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, N.Y.

The effects of the pollutant on the clover appear to be a warning of a wider threat.

"We need to pay attention to the amount of ground-level or ambient ozone," says Margaret McGrath, Cornell plant pathologist at the station. "There used to be a lot of spinach grown on Long Island. Not anymore. Spinach is very sensitive to ozone, which causes spotting on leaves and making them unmarketable. Acute injury routinely occurs on other Long Island crops, including grapes, pumpkins, watermelons and tomatoes. Its difficult to assess the impact on yield and injury to the plants photosynthetic tissue. Thats why scientists are developing and using indicator systems such as white clover."

McGrath is presenting her research in a poster, "Impact on White Clover of Ambient Ozone at Long Island, New York," on Aug. 15 and 16 at the annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans.

Most ozone occurs in the stratosphere and is called "good ozone" because it provides a shield against the harmful effects of the suns ultraviolet light. Ozone pollution occurs when abnormally high concentrations of the gas accumulate near the ground, the result of the reaction of sunlight with man-made precursor chemicals, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

The gas enters leaves through tiny openings called stomata. McGrath says that environmental, biological and cultural factors such as irrigation promote the stomatal openings and increases the risk of ozone injury to plants. She also says that ozone causes deleterious effects on plant photosynthesis,

Contact: Blaine Friedlander
Cornell University News Service

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