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Climate Change effecting nutrient content of staple crops: Study

May 8, 2014 14:14 IST

Scientists on 7 May 2014 warned that rise in the level of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) will badly hit the nutritional value of key cereals like wheat and rice. The warning was issued after conducting experiments by simulating conditions expected by mid-century.

Researchers at Harvard University in their findings, reported decline of two important nutrients namely Zinc (Zn) and Iron (Fe) in wheat, rice, soybeans and field peas, which were grown in open-air fields where the scientists created CO2 concentrations at the level as forecasted for the Earth by roughly 2050 about 550 parts per million. Zinc and Iron are two nutrients, received by almost two million people globally eating crops. At present the Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration is about 400 parts per million and is increasing at a fast pace.


In their exercise, they grew 40 varieties of six different grains and legumes including sorghum and corn at seven different locations across three continents namely the United States, Australia and Japan.

In their findings, scientists found a decline of 9 percent in level of Zinc and 5 percent in the level of Iron, when compared to the levels of these two nutrients in the wheat compared under normal conditions. Whereas, the rice grown with elevated CO2 levels had a loss of 3 percent zinc content and 5 percent in iron.

In their findings they also claimed that in case of corn and sorghum, the nutrient content seemed to be stable because these crops use a kind of photosynthesis that concentrates CO2 in their leaves.

Concentration of CO2 level in open-air fields was increased by the use of a system known as Free Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE). The FACE system pumps outs, monitors and adjusts ground-level CO2 in the air to stimulate future conditions.

Overall, the researchers and scientists had linked the findings to be one of the most health threats linked with the climate change.
    
The study was led by Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health and was published in journal Nature published on 7 May 2014.

 

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