Anthony Watts has another of his "claim" articles - which is his dogwhistle to the members of the WUWT Scientific Illiterati to display their allegiance to ignorance (archived here).
The science is about something that's been appearing in the literature over the years about the impact of rising CO2 on plant nutrients of importance to human health. This time it's the result of a large international collaboration involving twenty scientists from the USA, Israel, Australia and Japan.
These twenty scientists are affiliated with numerous prominent organisations, including: Harvard (various), Ben-Gurion University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UC Davis, University of Pennsylvania, DEPI Victoria Australia, National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences Japan, USDA (various), University of Arizona, The Nature Conservancy New Mexico and The University of Melbourne (various).
No, WUWT-ers haven't done an about-face. This is about FACE, which was the system used in the research.
ScienceDaily.com has a press release about the research paper. (As usual, Anthony didn't provide a link to the paper or to the press release.) What the various studies looked at was the impact of higher CO2 levels on multiple varieties of multiple important staple crops, including wheat, rice, field peas, soybeans, maize and sorghum. The way they did this was in open-air fields using a system that pumps out CO2 to simulate the levels expected over coming decades. The CO2 pumping system, called FACE (Free Air Concentration Enrichment), pumps out CO2 and automatically adjusts it. The research compared the crops grown under high CO2 with crops grown at current CO2 levels. All the other growing conditions were the same - including sunlight, soil, water and temperature.
What they found is not a surprise to people who've been keeping up with the scientific literature but it's notable for the breadth and depth of the study, the variety of crops studied and the fact that it was conducted in open air conditions, with controls of current day conditions. As reported by ScienceDaily.com:
The study contributed "more than tenfold more data regarding both the zinc and iron content of the edible portions of crops grown under FACE conditions" than available from previous studies, the team wrote.
C3 crops have lower levels of important nutrients at higher CO2
The most important findings were that at higher CO2, a lot of the important crops (wheat, rice, field peas and soybeans) had a big reduction in zinc and iron, which is very important for human health. Zinc and iron deficiencies already affect a large number of people in the world and as CO2 rises, this could become an even bigger problem. Except for the legumes, the C3 crops also had lower concentrations of protein. Protein content is particularly important for processing qualities of wheat - making bread, pizzas and pasta for example. Of course it's also important nutritionally for wheat and rice.
Sorghum and maize are C4 plants and their nutrients weren't affected by higher CO2. C4 plants photosynthesize differently to C3 plants. From ScienceDaily.com again:
Nutrients in sorghum and maize remained relatively stable at higher CO2 levels because these crops use a type of photosynthesis, called C4, which already concentrates carbon dioxide in their leaves, Leakey said.
"C4 is sort of a fuel-injected photosynthesis that maize and sorghum and millet have," he said. "Our previous work here at Illinois has shown that their photosynthesis rates are not stimulated by being at elevated CO2. They already have high CO2 inside their leaves."
Role for plant breeders
The results of this research will be important for plant breeders. There will need to be a focus on breeding to retain nutrients in crops grown under higher CO2 levels. It's just another feature to add to the growing list of attributes that plant breeders will need to focus on. The list already includes breeding for drought tolerance, disease resistance under high humidity etc etc. The abstract of the paper suggests:
Differences between cultivars of a single crop suggest that breeding for decreased sensitivity to atmospheric CO2 concentration could partly address these new challenges to global health.
From the WUWT comments
H/tip to Magma for pointing out the silliness at WUWT.
Lou says there's a simple solution - stop eating food:
May 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm
Hmm… It’s not like wheat is good for you anyway (See Heart Scan Blog or Wheat Belly Diet by Dr Mike Davis) for more information. Some are quite susceptible to wheat based food (diabetes and heart disease).
Anyway, I’ll have to see more studies to make sure that study holds up or not because as everybody already knows, leftists are desperate to label CO2 as dangerous so they’re looking for ways to demonize it.
Matt Maschinot says he's got another solution, the opposite to Lou - Matt says just eat more, not less:
May 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm
I’m curious as to what the growth efficiency was, for those plants that lost nutritional value. Is it possible that the additional CO2 increased the efficiency of the growth of the plant, and that by growing quicker, the plants did not accumulate the same level of nutrients?
If that’s the case, wouldn’t higher crop yields, result in lower cost, and higher consumption? And wouldn’t that offset the lower nutritional value of the individual plant?
schitzree doesn't know the difference between greenhouse tomatoes and open field grain and legume crops (or between greenhouse tomatoes and field tomatoes) and says:
May 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm
So I guess we need to tell commercial greenhouse owners that they’ve been wrong all this time? I’m sure they will be happy to hear they won’t have to buy all that extra CO2 anymore.
tteclod didn't bother reading the press release and has a lot of questions for most of which the answer is already provided (as if anyone at WUWT would answer them anyway). tteclod is a clod and talks about "he" instead of the "they" - being 20 scientists, and says:
May 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm
Also, he seems to differentiate between photosynthesis mechanisms. This looks like a study for a plant biologist and ag engineer to critique.
Also, what carbon-dioxide concentration did he achieve? How was the concentration measured? How was the CO2 introduced? Was the elevated CO2 level maintained throughout the daily photosynthesis cycle, or did it change according to time of day? How did they handle weather and winds in an open field. Did they measure the natural CO2 level in the region before, during, and after the experiment and compare to controls? What species of crops did they use? Did they make any comparison of nutritional values to nearby crops harvested by others?
ladylifegrows knows much more than all of those silly scientists from around the world put together, and says that the little goblins who work inside the cells of the plant factory will have lots of free time under higher CO2, because of "Rubisco". So they can turn their efforts to making other nutrients of "increased concentration and variety", presumably because they won't be as busy manufacturing carbohydrates:
May 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm
Rubisco is the name of the main plant protein that turns CO2 + H2O into sugar and oxygen. With higher CO2, the plant will need less of this protein and minerals associated with it. That will give the plant freedom to produce other nutrients in increased concentration and variety. Logically, this should mean a much more health-promoting food, but it would take sophisticated research for find out for sure or to quantify it. That pretty much cannot be done in a highly biased atmosphere. And good luck finding anything else.
Mike Maguire doesn't believe in wolves (or science), and says:
May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm
In Aesops Fable “The boy who cried wolf” how many different times did the village people get fooled?
In the IPCC Fable, “The planet that was being destroyed by CO2″ we have been subjected to hundreds(make that many thousands) of CO2 wolf stories but the CO2 wolf still has not come after 20 years.
At this point, even if this study was valid, it is almost impossible for me to believe that finally after screaming wolf for 20 years, a real wolf(and this one, not necessarily a big bad wolf) could actually be there.
Les Johnson says he doesn't believe it, but can't be bothered going to look at the article or tables himself:
May 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm
I see some control issues here. Protein in wheat is determined by how much rain and sun, and when during the wheat development, the rain and sun are applied. How long was the study? If only a few years, or god forbid one year, then the results would be weather more than CO2.
Anyone find the paper? I would like to read about the methods.
R2D2 says that undernourished people living in underdeveloped countries should pop into their local supermarket and buy some multi-vitamins - simple!
May 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm
Or take some multi vitamin
Kon Dealer is probably correct when she or he says:
May 7, 2014 at 2:52 pmI haven't come across that word before, either.
I guess these “scientists” have never heard of the word “fertliser”?
tegirinenashi, who wouldn't know science if it bit him in the butt, says:
May 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm
I think there is a way to combat this endless flow of superficial half-baked “research”. Conservative think tank institutions can establish annual “Bad Science” award with nominal prizes. I don’t think researchers would think twice before publishing anything that may be caught by negative publicity of getting BS award.
Charles Nelson didn't bother reading the article. He thinks the paper is about tomatoes. (It wasn't. It was a study of grain and legume field crops.) He says:
May 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm
Are they claiming that tomatoes grown in greenhouses with elevated CO2 are less ‘nutritious’?
I’ll bet they can afford ‘organic’ fruit and veg.
Jungle says the research is meaningless because plant breeders "should be able to adapt". Jungle doesn't say how the plant breeders are supposed to know what to adapt to, without studies such as these:
May 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm
Even if this was the case. Plant breeders should be able to adapt to that scenario. Another meaningless study.
Okay, I've read enough. There are almost 100 WUWT comments along the lines of the above. A good example of the WUWT scientific illiterati who worship ignorance and despise knowledge and learning.
Samuel S. Myers, Antonella Zanobetti, Itai Kloog, Peter Huybers, Andrew D. B. Leakey, Arnold J. Bloom, Eli Carlisle, Lee H. Dietterich, Glenn Fitzgerald, Toshihiro Hasegawa, N. Michele Holbrook, Randall L. Nelson, Michael J. Ottman, Victor Raboy, Hidemitsu Sakai, Karla A. Sartor, Joel Schwartz, Saman Seneweera, Michael Tausz, Yasuhiro Usui. Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13179 (pdf here)