Research indicates poorer quality wheat when carbon dioxide levels in the air rise

Spring wheat in Eastern Washington. Photo: DNR

Research is finding that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide negatively affect the protein content of wheat grain.

Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide stimulate the photosynthesis and growth of most plants. So that seems positive. However, unless plants increase their uptake of nutrients to a corresponding degree, their yields will have a lower nutritional value. Lower nutrient nitrogen results in a lower protein content, and thus poorer nutritional quality.

This is the finding of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in a recently published study in the journal Global Change Biology.

 “Protein content is the most important quality aspect for crops, with implications for both nutritional value and the baking properties of the grain,” explains Håkan Pleijel, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Wheat—together with rice—is the world’s most important crop in quantitative terms. Wheat grain also is unusually rich in protein, and wheat is the crop that provides the human race with the most protein.

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