ACCORDING to a new NASA study, published this week in Nature Climate Change, higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are likely to increase water-use efficiency in crops, and could potentially mitigate yield losses associated with other effects of climate change.
Though the researchers behind the study acknowledge that ongoing climate change is likely to lead to extremes in temperatures and water scarcity for most areas, the latest research suggests crops might react to higher levels of atmospheric CO2 in two beneficial ways.
Firstly, crop yields could rise as plants increase the rate of photosynthesis, speeding up growth. Secondly, they could use less water through pores in plants’ leaves, which open to collect carbon dioxide and release water vapour – as concentrations of CO2 increase, the pores don’t open as widely.
Commenting on the new research findings, Delphine Deryng from NASA’s Goddard Institute said earlier assessments have focused on the impacts of CO2 on yield. However, the wider scope of the NASA study, which looked at different effects, a range of crops and several global regions, made for some interesting findings.
The researchets used a range of simulations to look at changes in yield and evapotranspiration (plants’ water loss to the atmosphere) for wheat, maize, soybean and rice crops. Deryng and her co-authors assessed the crops based on yield produced per unit of water, which is a common measurement for assessing crop water-use efficiency. She said this approach will be `Critical to anticipating future agricultural water demands.’
The researchers also examined the impacts of different climate change scenarios – some keeping atmospheric CO2 levels at year 2000 levels, others in which concentrations of carbon dioxide double by the year 2080 (a ‘business as usual’ scenario, in which emissions aren’t tackled).
Their results showed yield losses for all four crops grown at 2000 levels of atmospheric CO2, due to higher temperatures and drier conditions. However, all four crops fared better under the ‘business as usual scenario’ due to increased photosynthesis and crop water productivity partially offsetting other impacts of climate change.
For wheat and soybean crops, this increase in photosynthesis and water retention offset yield losses – In Europe and North America, wheat yields could even see increases – though rice crops would be slightly affected and maize crops could be expected to fare poorly. The researchers said maize would perform worse in the higher-0O2 scenario because the plant is already more efficient at using carbon dioxide.
The results also varied by region; maize yields could be expected to fall by 15% in areas that rely on irrigation and 8 percent in rain-fed systems under the `business as usual’ scenario, and by 21% for irrigated maize and 26% for rain-fed maize at 2000 levels.
A similar pattern was observed for rain-fed wheat in hotter, drier regions like Southern Africa and India, which the researchers again put down to more available CO2 for photosynthesis and better water retention to offset increases in temperature.
Cynthia Rosenzweig cautioned: “The uncertainty of carbon dioxide effects are greater in arid regions because experiments have been carried out mostly in temperate legions of the northern hemisphere. We need field observations in these drier regions in order to validate and further improve our models”
The NASA researchers acknowledged that their study didn’t look at some potentially important factors, such as crop nutrition, which could affect the results as imbalances between available nitrogen and carbon could affect crop health. Even so, they said their observations contribute to work looking at growing in a hotter, drier planet.
First Minister to address FUW’s AGM
THE FARMERS’ UNION OF WALES is looking forward to welcome First Minister Carwyn Jones as the keynote speaker at its annual general meeting, which is taking place on Monday, June 18, at the William Davies Suite, IBERS in Aberystwyth.
The event is due to start at 1:30pm with a warm welcome from FUW President Glyn Roberts, which will be followed by a question and answer session on Brexit and #FarmingMatters.
Speaking ahead of the AGM, Glyn Roberts said: “We look forward to welcoming the First Minister to our AGM, which is likely to be his last engagement with the FUW in his current role.
“It promises to be a great afternoon of farming matters discussions, with a strong focus on agriculture in Wales post-Brexit, as well as #FairFarmFunding and I hope to see many of you there.
“And as is tradition we will also be revealing the winners of the FUW Owen Slaymaker Award, FUW New Members Award, and the FUW Long Service Award, in addition to a variety of FUW Insurance Services awards.”
Manifesto sets Brexit agenda
LEADERS of over 100 organisations from across the nation’s food supply chain have put their names to a manifesto setting out the key principles that can help ensure Brexit is a success for the supply of food in the UK.
The UK Food Supply Chain Manifesto, has been drawn up by organisations representing farmers producing the raw ingredients and their suppliers, right through to manufacturers and retailers. It sets out the need for positive outcomes on trade, labour, regulation and domestic agricultural policy.
With little more than 10 months to go before Brexit, the manifesto emphasises the importance of ensuring our departure from the EU does not undermine the food production and supply sectors in the UK.
The manifesto has been sent to the Prime Minister by NFU President Minette Batters on behalf of the signatories, as well as other key cabinet ministers.
Mrs Batters said: “Today we are presenting a united voice as a food and farming sector worth at least £112bn to the UK economy and employing around 4 million people; a food and farming sector that meets 61% of the nation’s food needs with high-welfare, traceable and affordable food; a food and farming sector that cares for three-quarters of the iconic countryside, that, in turn, delivers over £21bn in tourism back to our economy.
“In the manifesto we warn, as a collective, that a Brexit that fails to champion UK food producers, and the businesses that rely on them, will be bad for the country’s landscape, the economy and critically our society. Conversely, if we get this right, we can all contribute to making Brexit a success for producers, food businesses and the British public, improving productivity, creating jobs and establishing a more sustainable food supply system.
“When it comes to the nation’s ability to produce food, we believe it is critical that the different elements of Brexit are carefully considered by all Government departments – including the Prime Minister who has herself spoken about the importance of supporting our sector through Brexit in recent days.
“As we enter this critical period in the Brexit negotiations, the signatories to this manifesto will be looking to Government to ensure its objectives are aligned with ours to ensure British food production – something of which every person in this country enjoys the benefits – gets the best possible deal post-Brexit.”
One key objective in the manifesto appears likely to run headlong into so-called ‘red lines’ set by the most enthusiastic of Parliamentary Brexiteers, who appear happy to countenance a future for food and farming in which small farms and the rural enterprises which depend on them are swept away in a torrent of chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef.
The report states: ‘The UK and the EU27 will continue to be each other’s most important trading markets in food and drink. In 2016, 60% of UK exports and 70% of UK imports in food, feed and drink were with countries in the EU.
‘Working towards a mutually beneficial trade agreement is a clear priority for the UK food supply chain, one which guarantees tariff-free trade and with as limited a number of non-tariff restrictions as possible. It is imperative that the EU and UK reach an agreement that maintains continuity in existing trade arrangements as far as possible, including the avoidance of a hard border in Northern Ireland’.
Avian Influenza Prevention Zone ends
CABINET SECRETARY for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has confirmed that the All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will be lifted with effect from Friday, May 25.
The Cabinet Secretary has taken this decision based on an updated veterinary risk assessment conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) which found the risk of incursion from wild birds has reduced from High to Low. Similarly, the risk to poultry is also Low.
The Prevention Zone was introduced on January 25 to mitigate the risk of infection following three separate findings in England of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N6 in Wild Birds.
In Wales, there has been only one finding in a wild bird this year. There have been no cases of H5N6 avian influenza in poultry in the UK this year and the poultry sector retains its OIE disease free status.
Cabinet Secretary said: “In January, I took action and declared the whole of Wales an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N6 findings in England. This was a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of infection to poultry here in Wales.
“We have since been monitoring the situation closely and the latest risk assessment by APHA has concluded that the risk has reduced from High to Low for wild birds and the risk to poultry is also Low.
“Based on this evidence-based veterinary advice I am pleased to announce that the current All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will come to an end with immediate effect. Whilst this is welcome news it is important to remember avian influenza remains a constant and real threat to our poultry and other captive birds.”
Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop added: “I cannot stress enough the need for all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to remain vigilant for signs of the disease and to continue to practice the very highest levels of biosecurity.
“If anyone suspects disease they should contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately. Also, we can all play a part in supporting the ongoing surveillance by reporting any findings of dead wild birds to the GB helpline.
“I would also like to remind all poultry keepers with 50 birds or more they must register their flocks on the Poultry Register and strongly encourage all poultry keepers, including those with fewer than 50 birds, to register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak, enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity and minimise the spread of infection.”
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