CR 54:35-47 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01096

Quantifying field-scale effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentration on crops

Eline Vanuytrecht1,*, Dirk Raes1, Patrick Willems2, Sam Geerts1

1Division of Soil and Water Management, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
2Hydraulics Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, KU Leuven University, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium

ABSTRACT: Climate change will affect crop growth and agricultural production worldwide. Crop production will be affected not only by modified rainfall patterns, increased air temperatures and changes in evaporative demand, but also elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations ([CO2]). This study used meta-analytic techniques to quantify field-scale effects of elevated [CO2] (mainly 541 to 620 µmol mol−1) on agricultural crops in free air CO2 enrichment (FACE) conditions. Overall, crops benefit from elevated [CO2] by improving water productivity (+23% for biomass production and +27% for yield production), which is achieved through production increases in biomass (+15% for aboveground biomass) and yield (+16%), in combination with a decrease in seasonal evapotranspiration (–5%). Increased root:shoot ratios (+24%) indicate a more than proportional stimulation of belowground biomass production. Less critical, yet statistically significant are changes in canopy development rate and in phenology. Certain statistically significant differences existed between C3 and C4 crops, and between levels of environmental stress (nitrogen and water availability). Once the effect of elevated [CO2] is well understood and quantified, crop modellers can investigate the interactions with other climatic factors, providing better estimates of potential impacts on food production.


KEY WORDS: CO2 · Climate change · Crop productivity · FACE · Field-scale effects · Meta‑analysis


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Cite this article as: Vanuytrecht E, Raes D, Willems P, Geerts S (2012) Quantifying field-scale effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentration on crops. Clim Res 54:35-47. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01096

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