CO2 and Plant Pests

  by  |  September 4th, 2008  |  Published in All, Environment


 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 

Researchers are finding that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the air might be bad for our gardens and food prices, even though plants need CO2 to breathe. As this ScienCentral News video explains, research is showing that too much CO2 can make at least one major crop more vulnerable to pests.

[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Interviewee: Evan DeLucia, University of Illinois
Produced by Joyce Gramza — Edited by James Eagan
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc.

CO2: A Necessity and a Hazard
By Heather Mayer

Plants need CO2 to breathe, and higher levels of the greenhouse gas make them grow faster. But we may not be able to count on those increased yields. Biologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign discovered that too much CO2 can make them more susceptible to damage from pests.

“As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, we might see a small increase in crop productivity, but what’s startling, and a little unnerving, is those increases in productivity might be completely canceled out by greater insect attack,” explains Evan DeLucia, who led the research.

These elevated CO2 levels, which are a result of fossil fuel combustion, make soybean plants less able to fight back against pests, in particular, the invasive Japanese beetle.

DeLucia and his team have been farming soybean fields in an experiment called SoyFACE (Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment), which studies how agricultural ecosystems will respond to global change.

DeLucia explains that CO2 levels have been increasing at a rapid rate. “When I was a graduate student in the 1980s it was about 340-350 ppm (parts per million),” he says. “Now it’s about 380 ppm, and it’s expected to go up to 550 ppm by the year 2050.”

SoyFACE’s Unique Design

SoyFACE scientists are using a unique experimental design to simulate the types of conditions the planet will face in years to come, focusing largely on CO2 levels. SoyFACE is a series of plots in a soybean field where there is a ring of pipes around a crop. These pipes inject carbon dioxide upwind, bringing all of the crops to a certain CO2 level, which imitates future conditions, DeLucia explains. In this experiment in particular, the scientists predict the level to be about 200 ppm higher than it is today.

The unique part of this experiment is its divergence from studies conducted indoors or in greenhouses. The crops are exposed to all the natural elements such as wind, rain, temperature, and most importantly, insects.

“It’s actually doing this experiment in a natural setting that led us to these startling discoveries,” DeLucia says.

Beetles Feast and Flourish

Also on ScienCentral

“We notice some things somewhat positive, and something perhaps frighteningly negative,” DeLucia says.

With the higher levels of CO2, the plants grow more rapidly because the gas stimulates the rate of photosynthesis, DeLucia explains. This means soybean yields have marginally increased. But insects, including Japanese beetles, go toward the high CO2 areas for nourishment. Not only is the number of insects at these plots greater, but the scientists also discovered that the insects eat more of the leaves grown under higher CO2 leves than leaves under current levels.

“Damage to soybeans from insects may increase dramatically in the future,” says DeLucia.

To test whether Japanese beetles are actually drawn to the higher CO2 leaves. DeLucia and his team gave beetles the option of either a leaf grown under high CO2 or one under normal levels. The beetles not only chose those with higher levels, but they also ate more of the leaves.

Plants Fight Back

Under normal conditions, plants have defense mechanisms to prevent insects, like these invasive beetles, from destroying them. They produce chemicals to deter insects from eating them. DeLucia’s team of scientists researched in greater detail how soybean plants defend themselves from Japanese beetles. Soybean plants produce a chemical called a protease inhibitor, which slows enzymes called proteases that the beetles use to break down proteins in the plant material. This prevents the beetles from eating too much of the soybean plant and from digesting all of their meal — sometimes resulting in death.

But SoyFACE revealed that soybean plants under elevated carbon dioxide levels are not able to create as much of a chemical defense against Japanese beetles. Under these CO2 conditions, the beetles eat more of the highly nutritious soybean plants. This, scientists found, allows the beetles to live longer and reproduce more.

DeLucia notes that the Japanese beetle is an invasive species, which “are really good at taking advantage of disturbed environments,” says DeLucia.

“A Solvable Problem”

As carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, the effects on the soybean and Japanese beetle populations aren’t the only things to be concerned about, DeLucia says. In order to protect their soybean plants, farmers might spray crops with more pesticides, which would have other negative ecological consequences, DeLucia says. Not only that, but costs for crops will increase because farmers are paying more to protect their plants.

“Farmers will be taking care of those crops by spraying more insecticides, which increases the farmer’s costs, and of course, he’s going to pass those costs onto us,” DeLucia explains. “So one of the fears is that will be another thing that increases food prices in the future.”

With CO2 levels climbing, global temperatures increase, which could result in more frequent, more severe droughts. DeLucia and his scientists plan to study the effects of those factors on plants and insects in their next experiments.

But the planet isn’t doomed to these negative consequences. At least not yet. Global change, which really is at the base of these problems, is caused by human activities, DeLucia points out.

“Elevated carbon dioxide is a global disturbance that we’re imposing on the planet through our industrial practices,” he says. Changing those practices can slow and reverse the rise in carbon dioxide levels.

“This is something we very much need to look at right now so the future generations don’t have to suffer the consequences of our very, very extravagant uses of fossil fuels today,” says DeLucia.

Elsewhere on the Web:

Animation: How does SOYFACE work?

Other FACE Experiments around the world.


 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 


Responses

  1. Michal From Life Tips says:

    October 20th, 2008 at 2:02 am (#)

    Thanks for this very interesting article, I too think that co2 will cause trouble in the future

  2. Trees and Forests Show Stress From Global Warming | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    December 23rd, 2008 at 11:19 am (#)

    [...] CO2 and Plant Pests 9.4.08 [...]

  3. Early Birds & Springtime | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    March 19th, 2009 at 10:25 am (#)

    [...] CO2 and Plant Pests 9.4.08 [...]

  4. Muoi Barreneche says:

    November 24th, 2011 at 6:42 pm (#)

    co2 blood levels high

  5. kurser i møbelpolstring københavn says:

    December 23rd, 2012 at 4:59 pm (#)

    Hurrah! In the end I got a web site from where I be
    able to in fact take helpful facts regarding my
    study and knowledge.

  6. agate cameo says:

    March 22nd, 2013 at 4:06 pm (#)

    These are genuinely enormous ideas in about blogging. You have touched some fastidious points here. Any way keep up wrinting.| agate cameo http://www.goldmemoriesforever.com

  7. walmartgarciniacambogi says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 9:02 am (#)

    Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol| walmart garcinia cambogia http://www.pure-garcinia-cambogia.org

  8. bewerbungsfotosMünchen says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 10:06 am (#)

    This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Kudos!| bewerbungsfotos München USA visum fotos http://www.fotostudioaugenblicke.de

  9. The best search engine says:

    March 24th, 2013 at 1:01 pm (#)

    Thanks for penning this fine article..Loved your content. Make sure you do preserve writing The best search engine http://asdasghdsdfs5hf.com

  10. naruto shippuden movie 4 says:

    April 25th, 2013 at 1:30 pm (#)

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I genuinely
    enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and may come back from now on.
    I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts, have a nice day!

  11. http://newsonlouisbacon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/louis-moore-bacon-to-receive-audubon.html says:

    May 21st, 2013 at 3:13 pm (#)

    I do believe all the ideas you’ve introduced on your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for beginners. May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  12. free porn streaming says:

    June 27th, 2013 at 5:14 pm (#)

    Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice article.

  13. Amanda Morlas says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 3:54 pm (#)

    This is such a great idea. A friend of mine sent me your hyperlink. It’s such a good way to engage readers offline and get physical mail which everyone loves. I may need to do this after my blog is up and running a bit more.

  14. Talent Recruitment says:

    October 4th, 2014 at 6:37 am (#)

    Everything is very open with a precise description off the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful.

    Manyy thanks for sharing!

    my wweb page; Talent Recruitment

  15. Yolanda says:

    January 15th, 2015 at 4:04 pm (#)

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. There’s no
    doubt that that you need to write more about this subject,
    it may not be a taboo subject but usually people do not
    talk about such topics. To the next! All the best!!

    web site; Yolanda,

  16. helpdesk.geoforce.com says:

    February 18th, 2015 at 5:03 am (#)

    Appreciation to my father who told me regarding this blog, this blog is actually
    awesome.

  17. Ezequiel says:

    February 27th, 2015 at 9:59 am (#)

    Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading
    it, you are a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and
    will come back later in life. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have a nice morning!

Leave a Response


Archives


Clicky Web Analytics