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Increased CO2 levels are mixed blessing for agriculture

COLUMBUS, Ohio A new study suggests that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be a boon for agricultural crops, as this greenhouse gas helps crop plants grow and reproduce more.

But that boon comes with a price, said Peter Curtis, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University. Greater growth and reproduction may hurt the nutritional value of crops.

"If you're looking for a positive spin on rising CO2 levels, it's that agricultural production in some areas is bound to increase," Curtis said. "Crops have higher yields when more CO2 is available, even if growing conditions aren't perfect.

"But there's a tradeoff between quantity and quality. While crops may be more productive, the resulting produce will be of lower nutritional quality."

Nutritional quality declines because while the plants produce more seeds under higher CO2 levels, the seeds contain less nitrogen.

"The quality of the food produced by the plant decreases, so you've got to eat more of it to get the same benefits," Curtis said. "Nitrogen is a critical component for building protein in animals, and much of the grain grow
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Contact: Peter Curtis
Curtis.7@osu.edu
614-292-0835
Ohio State University
2-Oct-2002


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