Crop Biotech Update

“Shinier” Plants could Help Ease Global Warming

January 16, 2009

By growing shinier crops or plant varieties with waxy coatings on their leaves, much of Europe and North America could be cooled by up to 1°C during the summer growing season, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol in UK suggests. This could translate to an annual global cooling of over 0.1°C, almost 20 percent of the total global temperature increase since the Industrial Revolution.

The concept is simple. Plants vary significantly in their solar reflectivity or albedo. A field of reflective crops will send more solar energy back into space than say, a field planted with normal varieties. The scientists propose a “leaf albedo bioengineering” approach, wherein crop varieties will be chosen based on their solar reflectivity alongside other considerations already made when planting crops, such as the food processing characteristics of a grain.

Andy Ridgwell and colleagues argue that we should select crop varieties in order to exert a control on the climate, in the same way that we currently cultivate specific varieties to maximize and fine-tune food production.

Read http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2009/6091.html for more information. The abstract of paper published by Current Biology is available at http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(08)01680-1