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New Research Claims High CO2 Levels Could Boost Wheat Yield with Minimum Nutritional Loss

Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are soaring, which experts predict could produce more droughts and hotter temperatures. Though these weather changes would negatively affect many plants’ growth, the increased CO2 availability might be beneficial because plants use greenhouse gas to make food by photosynthesis. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry say that a much higher CO2 level might increase wheat yield; however, barely reduce its nutritional quality.

Wheat is one of the world’s most important crops; its flour is used as a significant ingredient in a large variety of foods such as bread, pasta, and pastries. Previously, scientists have proven that elevated CO2 can increase wheat yields on the expense of grain quality traits similar to nitrogen and protein content. Nevertheless, scientists do not yet know the total vary of grain quality changes that may happen at different stages of wheat improvement or the biochemical mechanisms behind them. Iker Aranjuelo and colleagues needed to examine the effects of elevated CO2 on wheat yield, quality, and metabolism during grain formation and at maturity.

The researchers grew wheat in greenhouses at normal (400 parts per million; ppm) or elevated (700 ppm) CO2 concentrations. The team found that wheat grown under elevated CO2 levels showed a 104% greater yield of mature grain. Nonetheless, the nitrogen content of the grain was 0.5% lower under these situations, and there were also small declines in protein content and free amino acids. The researchers used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze metabolic changes within the grains at totally different developmental stages. Amongst different modifications, elevated CO2 altered the levels of sure nitrogen-containing amino acids throughout grain formation and at maturity. Though the metabolic changes they detected had economic impacts on remaining high grain quality, the consequences might be amplified by different adjustments in a plant’s environment, such as limited nitrogen availability or drought conditions, the researchers say.

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