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Agronomy Day 2010

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Climate Change: Consequences for Agriculture and Food Security

Craig Yendrek; Research Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS, 217-265-9884
David Rosenthal; Research Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS, 217-244-2996
Carl Bernacchi; Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS and Assistant Professor, University of Illinois Department of Plant Biology
SoyFACE website:

How will future changes in climate impact Illinois agriculture? Researchers working at SoyFACE (the soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment field site) are revealing how corn and soybean yields will be altered in an environment that is hotter, dryer, and has more carbon dioxide and pollution (Ozone) than current conditions. To investigate how crops grow differently in elevated temperature (T-FACE), infra-red heaters are used in the field to simulate temperatures that are four degrees Celsius higher than the actual temperature, an amount that is predicted to impact central Illinois by the year 2050. A second temperature experiment is looking at the effect of a three day long, six degree Celsius (10 oF) heat-wave. We will identify the most sensitive developmental stage by administering heatwaves at three growth stages including vegetative, beginning bloom, and pod filling. In the drought experiment (DriFACE), awnings are deployed to divert night-time rain, which eliminates as much as 85% of the water that is available to the plant throughout the growing season. Both TFACE and DriFACE experiments are also fumigated with elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is used by plants during photosynthesis to make sugars. Normally, plant growth is promoted in elevated CO2. However, results from SoyFACE indicate that this so-called 'fertilization effect' doesn't always translate into increased yield, especially in elevated temperature and drought conditions. Finally, the elevated ozone experiment is looking at the effect of pollution on soybean yield by fumigating plants with increasing concentrations of ozone. The most recent estimates indicate ozone related damage is already costing Illinois farmers yield losses of up to 10%. If pollution continues to rise, it is expected that an additional 5 bushels per acre will be lost by the year 2050. The results from these studies are currently being used to influence breeding programs with the goal of maintaining high-yielding varieties in the FACE of a changing climate.

Agronomy Day 2010