Courtesy Agricultural Research ServiceResearcher David Fleisher studies potatoes in a growth chamber that simulates global climate change.Although some plants may suffer under global climate change and increased carbon dioxide levels, potatoes appear to thrive.
Under trials that simulated elevated CO2 levels, potato tuber yield was as much as 60 percent greater than from plants growing under current CO2 levels, according to a news release.
The studies, conducted by an Agricultural Research Service group led by agricultural engineer David Fleisher, involved growing potatoes in two outdoor chambers that simulated long-term drought and increased CO2 levels.
The chambers contained sensors that measured air, soil and canopy temperatures; relative humidity; and solar radiation above and below the canopy.
They also conducted the studies at two different times during the year to evaluate differing solar radiation levels.
The quality of the solar radiation was about twice as much during the first trial as that of the second.
The plants responded significantly differently to the variations in solar radiation, which iin turned affected plant water-use efficiency.
With all other factors being equal, the plants in the first study had a 30 percent to 200 percent increase in total dry matter production, depending on CO2 and water availability.
The researchers also observed that cyclic droughts resulted in lower levels of dry matter and leaf area production.
When plants experienced drought stress before tuber formation, they redirected carbon, water and plant nutrients to tubers instead of to stems and leaves. This response was increased under elevated CO2 levels.