Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Climate change alert: Hope you like sweet potatoes

Climate change is transforming the world we know, generally in a bad way--but sweet potatoes will do just fine, thanks.

A new study out of the University of Hawai’i says increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can significantly increase the size of the orange tuber crop. (One presumes it also works with the purple variety.)

The study was performed by Ben Czeck, A. Hope Jahren and Brian Schubert of the UH Department of Geology and Geophysics, Susan Deenik of the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, Susan Crow of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and Maria Stewart of the Department of Agricultural Sciences.

Czeck and his associates studied this particular crop because, while most previous studies have looked at grains and beans, “climate change is expected to have the greatest impact on regions of the world that rely heavily on root crops, such as the sweet potato.”

They grew sweet potatoes in a greenhouse fed with elevated levels of CO2, and found that “sweet potato grown to maturity under elevated CO2 has greater total biomass than those grown under ambient atmospheric conditions." They also found a higher response to conventional chemical fertilizer than organic fertilizer based on steer manure.

The team is now studying the sweet potatoes to determine how high-CO2 crops differ in nutrition from those grown under standard conditions.

There are some caveats to the study. The sweet potatoes were grown in conditions with far greater CO2 content (more than double) than the current high atmospheric CO2 levels. It will be years before carbon dioxide levels get that high, if they do, but the high levels are within the range of some projections.

The study was presented at the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union-Biosciences.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2012

No comments: