Greenhouse Gases Leave This Staple Crop At Risk For Diminished Nutrition

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According to Live Science, a greenhouse gas consists of any compound found in the atmosphere that can absorb infrared radiation. The heat is thereby held within the atmosphere. The trapping of excess heat in the atmosphere, known as the greenhouse effect, ultimately leads to global warming. A new study outlines a primary risk humans face in terms of the greenhouse gas effect on global warming, our food source.

A study released on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances shows that high emissions of carbon dioxide have the potential to diminish several key nutrients that are currently found in rice. The experiment was conducted in China and Japan, and it studied 18 varieties of open-air rice crops. The “plants were subjected to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 568 to 590 parts per million.”

Under current atmospheric conditions, the rice plants grow at 410 parts per million. These concentrations, due to human-caused greenhouse gasses, are increasing at approximately 2 parts per million annually. Unfortunately, the Earth’s concentration of gasses could reach the levels portrayed in the study near the end of this century, in time for the next generation to be impacted.

The scientists behind the study have shown that greenhouse gas emissions threaten to change the nutritional makeup of the rice plant.

[Image by Thanthip Homs/Shutterstock]Featured image credit: Thanthip HomsShutterstock

According to Science Alert, researchers said they believe global warming and the rise in gas emissions should raise concern about the declining nutritional value of the rice plant. Rice is a food item that has become a staple for billions of humans worldwide. Research team leader Chunwu Zhu, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, furthered this point by stated that rice currently makes up 25 percent of the world’s food source.

Plants do absorb carbon dioxide to live and grow; however, the scientific research confirmed recently discovered evidence that, at high concentrations, the rice crop declined in protein, iron, and zinc. The team also found that the crop’s levels of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 greatly diminished when exposed to higher levels of gas emissions.

As concentrations of carbon in the air grow, plants will pull more of it out of the air. The issue is that the other parts of the plant’s system may not be able to keep up with the increase. In essence, as the rice crop takes in more carbon, the plants will draw in fewer nutrients from the soil. This change in nutritional content for the crop will, therefore, have an effect on those who consume the harvest.

Although the researchers only studied rice, the realization of implication doesn’t stop there. Chuck Rice, an Agronomy professor at Kansas State University, commented on the results of the study. He stated that “the basic mechanism here could involve other plants and other food staples.”

The New York Times suggested that the health consequences caused by global warming and greenhouse gasses are vast, especially considering that there are billions of individuals living worldwide who don’t get proper nutrients in their daily diet.

“If we do nothing, then yes, there is this potential for profound negative impacts on human health,” said study author Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington. Fortunately, this is still a fixable issue.