The ever increasing population of the planet puts a huge demand on the food output, which has so far been maintained by newer techniques and mass productions. According to new studies though, large scale production of crops could be one of the reasons behind the increase of Carbon Di-oxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere.
It is a well know fact that plants consume CO2 from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis. The plants don’t use that CO2 but actually store it in their bodies, which is released back in the atmosphere when the plant dies or when its cuts down (harvested in the case of crops). With the increase in farming, researchers believe the amount of CO2 being dumped back in the atmosphere has increased as well.
Two teams, working independently suggest that farming is responsible for between 20 and 50 percent of the CO2 taken up during the growing season and in the amount given back during the dormant season, across northern hemisphere. Since the production in the northern hemisphere has increased by 240 percent in the past years, the amount of CO2 has subsequently increased as well.
Christopher Kucharik, from the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and team, whose report was published in the journal Nature explains, “Here we use production statistics and a carbon accounting model to show that increases in agricultural productivity, which have been largely overlooked in previous investigations, explain as much as a quarter of the observed changes in atmospheric CO2 seasonality.”
The changes are said to be seasonal, where the emission of carbon are less in the active farming seasons of summer and the more in the dormant winter seasons. Four crops have been identified as the major contributors of CO2: namely corn, rice, wheat, and soybean. Out of this, corn accounts for the biggest contribution of carbon.
Boston University’s Mark Friedl added, “Corn is the one crop that’s just exploded. Over the last 50 years, the production has intensified enormously. The fact that this land area can affect the composition of the atmosphere is an amazing fingerprint of human activity on the planet.”
Researchers noted that we must try to find ways to sustain the mass production of food, but limit the carbon output.