Crops los­ing protein

Down to Earth - - SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY -

Ris­ing car­bon diox­ide lev­els are low­er­ing the nu­tri­tional qual­ity of food crops. For the first time, it has been shown through a field study that el­e­vated car­bon diox­ide lev­els curb plants’ abil­ity to con­vert ni­trates into pro­teins.

The study used wheat sam­ples grown in Phoenix, Ari­zona, US, un­der car­bon diox­ide lev­els ex­pected in the next few decades. Three dif­fer­ent test on the plant leaf showed a fall in ni­trate as­sim­i­la­tion. On an aver­age, the in­creased car­bon diox­ide lev­els caused a de­cline of 8 per cent in protein con­cen­tra­tion of the crop. The study was pub­lished in Na­ture Cli­mate Change on April 6.

Pro­teins are vi­tal for hu­man nu­tri­tion and wheat ac­counts for one-fourth of protein in hu­man diet glob­ally. In pre­vi­ous stud­ies, food crops such as rice and bar­ley have also shown a sim­i­lar fall in protein con­tent due to high car­bon diox­ide lev­els. Re­searchers es­ti­mate that the in­crease in car­bon diox­ide lev­els could lead to a 3 per cent re­duc­tion in protein con­tent in the hu­man diet.

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