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Open Greenhouse

August 29, 2006

Crops will fare poorly in a future with more carbon dioxide, a study suggests.


An open-air greenhouse. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As greenhouse gases increase, food crops will have to grow in a very different atmosphere. Most scientists study this in… well, a greenhouse. But Stephen Long at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demands more realism. He and his colleagues are actually changing the atmosphere over an open field — by pumping extra carbon dioxide into the wind from computerized pipes.

STEPHEN LONG (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):
The computer is continually checking on the carbon dioxide level it has. If that level starts to go off, it immediately backs off valves. If it starts to drop, it opens valves up.

His data suggest that although the carbon dioxide itself will actually help some crops grow, it won’t offset the detrimental effects of global warming, like drier soils. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.