Ozone Pollution Harms Maize Crops, Study Finds

Apr 06, 2021

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Although stratospheric ozone protects us by filtering out the sun's ultraviolet radiation, tropospheric ozone is a harmful pollutant. A new study has shown that ozone in the lower layers of the atmosphere decreases crop yields in maize and changes the types of chemicals that are found inside the leaves.
 
Ozone is formed when nitrous oxide, released from industries and tail pipes of cars, is broken down by sunlight and chemically reacts to form ozone. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been studying the effects of ozone pollution on crops for over 20 years at a unique facility where crops can be grown under real-world farm field conditions but with increased concentrations of ozone pollution.
 
"Ozone pollution is higher in the northern hemisphere, and peaks in the warmer, summer months. High concentrations of ozone pollution overlap temporally and spatially with crop growth, so it is important to study how the high ozone concentrations affect crop yields," said Jessica Wedow, a former PhD student in the Ainsworth lab.
 
The researchers looked at three types of maize: two inbred lines B73 and Mo17, and the hybrid cross B73 × Mo17. Surprisingly, they found that chronic ozone stress caused a 25% decrease in yield in the hybrid crops while the inbred plants remained unaffected. The hybrid plants also aged faster than the inbred crops.
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