Rice's nutritional value decreases in higher Carbon dioxide concentrations

Rice Could Lose Its Nutritional Value Due to Rising CO2 Levels

The research was conducted in Japan and China where they held experiment on 18 different types of the crop between 2010 and 2014. Notably, some varieties of rice seemed to react differently to increased levels of CO2, say the study's authors, showing relatively smaller decreases in nutritional value, a finding that farmers and others could take advantage of. If the rice nutritional value suffers, it will have an impact on the development of several millions of children.

In a number of countries, mostly in southern Asia, hundreds of millions of people get at least half of their daily food energy from rice, the researchers explained.

This finding is not based on computer simulation of a plant's response to notionally higher atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas CO2, nor on laboratory studies under glass and in artificial conditions.

"This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century". For people who depend heavily on rice as a staple in their diets, such a nutritional loss would be devastating, says Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington and an author on the study.

Up to a billion people in the world are what bureaucrats politely call "food insecure". Scientists have found that rice grown at higher levels of carbon dioxide has an overall lower nutritional value.

Director of the ARC's Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, Professor Bob Furbank, said in theory higher Carbon dioxide levels were a good thing for growth - but the reality proved somewhat different.

"Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries", said Professor Kazuhiko Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo, co-author of the recent study and expert in effects of air pollution on agriculture.

Their data revealed an inverse relationship between Carbon dioxide levels and nutritional qualities - the higher the Carbon dioxide level, the lower the levels of vitamins and minerals.

"Some varieties showed a very large decline, some varieties much less a drop of vitamin contents". "So they're critically important, particularly for maternal and child health, but for all of us".

The grain contains lower levels of protein, and iron and zinc - metals vital for health in trace form - and also consistent declines in vitamin B.

The consequences for wheat are tied to rising temperatures, but with rice, the immediate issue appears to be the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For the study, researchers looked how carbon dioxide affects the above nutrients. That knowledge gives researchers an opportunity, given enough funding, to breed climate change-resistant strains of rice.

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