Ozone lowers wheat yield by 9%

There were many great articles concerning cross-disciplinary research at the interface between plant biology, mathematics and computer science before the launch in silico Plants (isP). We are excited for isP to be home to these types of articles in the future.

High levels of ground-level ozone are a threat to crop production and concentrations will likely continue to increase in the coming decades.

By modelling the stomatal uptake of ozone on a global scale, Mills and coauthors found that ozone reduced wheat yield by 9.4% from 2010-2012. This corresponds to 85 Tg of lost grain per year, or losses of $24.2 billion dollars. Losses in developing countries were 50% higher than those in developed countries. This is particularly devastating because (i) developing countries rely largely on home-grown wheat and (ii) the demand for wheat is increasing at twice the rate in developing than developed countries.


Previous studies have simply estimated that the largest effects of ozone will occur in the areas with the highest ozone concentrations. In this study, the authors used a modelling method that accounted for the effects of soil moisture deficit and meteorological factors on the stomatal uptake of ozone. They found that ozone impacts on wheat yield were particularly large in humid rain-fed and irrigated areas where stomatal uptake of ozone is often maximized. This is of particular importance because irrigation will likely expand as countries experience increasing drought due to climate change.

The authors suggest that ozone impacts on yield might be mitigated by both (i) exploiting the genetic variation in ozone resistance in wheat cultivars in breeding programs, and (ii) developing management strategies that protect against ozone damage. Ultimately, though, the largest benefit would accrue from reducing emissions of ozone precursors, with co-benefits for the production of other staple food crops known to be sensitive to ozone as well as for human health, ecosystems and climate.

Rachel Shekar

Rachel (she/her) is a Founding and Managing Editor of in silico Plants. She has a Master’s Degree in Plant Biology from the University of Illinois. She has over 15 years of academic journal editorial experience, including the founding of GCB Bioenergy and the management of Global Change Biology. Rachel has overseen the social media development that has been a major part of promotion of both journals.

Read this in your language

The Week in Botany

On Monday mornings we send out a newsletter of the links that have been catching the attention of our readers on Twitter and beyond. You can sign up to receive it below.

@BotanyOne on Mastodon

Loading Mastodon feed...