Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment Effects on Agricultural Plant Roots are Providing the Foundation for a New-and-Improved "Green Revolution"
Herder, G.D., Van Isterdael, G., Beeckman, T. and De Smet, I. 2010. The roots of a new green revolution. Trends in Plant Science 15: 600-607..
The four researchers say that "in the past, improvement of crops and agricultural techniques has mainly focused on increasing shoot biomass and seed yield," but that "the relevance of the root system for food production has often been overlooked." This myopic view was unfortunate, for many aspects of root system development are essential for enabling optimal plant growth in the face of numerous belowground environmental stresses, such as drought, salinity and soil-borne pathogenic attacks; and they state that achieving improvements in this "hidden half" of a crop's environment represents "an underestimated and not fully exploited area for strategies to enhance yield."
So are today's research institutions up to the task of bringing about the needed improvements in our current crop plants? Not as well as they should be, apparently, or else there would be no need for Herder et al.'s call to improve agricultural plant root systems. Mankind in general, on the other hand -- albeit unknowingly -- has been hard at work on the task, and doing quite well we might add, all as a result of our burning of fossil fuels, which raises the atmosphere's CO2 concentration and improves plant root development and functions in a number of important and needful ways.
In Herder et al.'s analysis, for example, they indicate that crop plants of the future will need "an increased and more efficient root system" that includes "more lateral branches and/or higher number of root hairs," in order to "take up water and nutrients, to fix fertile soil and to prevent soil degradation." Happily, these are things that enriching the air with CO2 helps to bring about. They also note that "80% of land plants obtain important mineral nutrition through the ancient arbuscular endomycorrhizal symbiosis with Glomeromycota fungi species," which, according to Parniske (2008), are ubiquitous in soils. And this, too, is something that elevated CO2 helps to promote. In addition, they note the need for sufficient nitrogen availability to plants, which is provided to legumes by nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria located within nodules on their roots; and this need is also met by increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
All of these claims may be readily verified by perusing the many synopses of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles we have archived in our Topical Archive under the Terrerstrial Plants and Soils section. Check them out for yourselves, and see why we regularly refer to carbon dioxide as the elixir of life.
Godfray, H.C.J., Beddington, J.R., Crute, I.R., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J.F., Pretty, J., Robinson, S., Thomas, S.M. and Toulmin, C. 2010. Food security: The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327: 812-818.
Parniske, M. 2008. Arbuscular mycorrhiza: the mother of plant root endosymbioses. Nature Reviews Microbiology 6: 763-775.