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Greenhouse Gases Not All Bad

Greenhouse Gases Not All Bad

A higher concentration of carbon dioxide will help plants grow and increase the length of the growing season.

A higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere isn't all bad news for Dakota farmers.

Higher CO2levels will allow stomatal pores on plants to close somewhat, which will increase water efficiency by cutting down on evapotranspiration, says Ron Smith, North Dakota State University Extension horticulturalist.

Because CO2 is a necessary component of photosynthesis, plants should grow better, he says.

CO2 "fertilization" is a somewhat common practice in greenhouses at higher elevations, such as the mountain regions of Colorado, he says.

Greenhouse Gases Not All Bad

CO2 CO2and water vapor hold in the earth's heat, which is raising global temperatures. As a result, North Dakota's growing season has gotten about 12 days longer over the last century.

Higher nighttime temperatures impact fruit maturation, which means crops, such as tomatoes and grapes, can be harvested earlier in the season. While good for annual crops, it may have an impact on meeting the total chilling requirements of some of the perennial fruit crops such as apples, Smith notes.

Warmer temperatures also may mean more disease and insect activity. Up to a point, common maladies, such as powdery mildew, can be expected to show an increase. With milder winter temperatures, wood-boring and root-eating insect larvae that were somewhat kept in check with more severe weather, will now flourish and feast on crops.

"Adjustments in landscape management, pest control and the timing of planting and harvesting will have to be implemented during the next decade to maximize our horticultural objectives," Smith says. "What was standard operating procedure in 1990 will not be the same in 2020 if we want to continue growing our favorite horticultural plantings successfully."

The concentration of carbon dioxide CO2) had increased by 1.5 parts per million (ppm) since the Mauna Loa Observatory started doing CO2 measurements in 1960. While the models contain a great deal of uncertainty on future CO2 concentration amounts, conservative models say the rise will continue and may reach 700 ppm by 2100. The models also assume that humankind will be attempting to slow the rise of CO2 during that time.

Because of CO2's connection with global warming, the general public has a negative perception about the greenhouse effect. However, without the greenhouse effect, the Earth's average temperature would have been 0 F, or 59 degrees colder than its current temperature, says Adnan Akyuz, NDSU state climatologist.

Source: NDSU Extension Communciations

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