Another benefit of global warming – increased forage plants

From the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

An increase in temperature by 2050 may be advantageous to the growth of forage plants

With a 2°C increase in temperature, the plant Stylosanthes capitata Vogel was able to increase its leaf area and biomass in a study carried out by researchers at the University of São Paulo

A 2°C increase in temperature around the world by 2050, according to one of the scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), may be advantageous to the physiology and the biochemical and biophysical processes involved in the growth of forage plants such as Stylosanthes capitata Vogel, a legume utilized for livestock grazing in tropical countries such as Brazil.

The conclusion is from a study carried out by researchers in the Department of Biology at the Ribeirão Preto Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Languages and Literature at the University of São Paulo (USP).

The outcome of a thematic project conducted under the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (PFPMCG), the study has just been published in the journal Environmental and Experimental Botany.

“The 2°C increase in temperature in the environment in which Stylosanthes capitata Vogel was experimentally cultivated promoted photosynthesis, in addition to increasing the leaf area and biomass of the plant,” said Carlos Alberto Martinez, project coordinator and first author of the study.

The thematic project coordinated by Martinez involves researchers from the University of Illinois, Columbia University and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in addition to the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche of Italy, the Universitat de Barcelona in Spain, and, in Brazil, the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), the São Paulo State University (Unesp) and the North Fluminense State University (UENF), as well as the Cena at USP, the Botanical Institute and Embrapa.

According to Martinez, Stylosanthes capitata Vogel is a major forage legume in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. This plant species is highly drought resistant and able to grow in sandy environments.

With global climate change, it is estimated that a moderate temperature increase of slightly greater than 2°C could have damaging effects on the plant’s physiology and growth under cultivation in tropical environments such as Brazil.

To test these hypotheses, the researchers conducted an experiment in which they cultivated plants in open fields, in a normal-temperature environment, and in a temperature-controlled area using a temperature free-air controlled enhancement system known as T-FACE.

The system comes equipped to control heat emission from the crown of the plants through infrared heaters that enable the temperature of the growing environment to remain at a steady 2°C over ambient temperature.

After cultivating the plants with these temperature differences for 30 days, the researchers measured photosynthetic energy dissipation and conducted aboveground biochemical and biomass analyses.

The results of the measurements and analyses indicated that a temperature increase of approximately 2°C was able to improve the plants’ photosynthetic activity and level of antioxidant protection.

In addition, there was a 32% increase in the leaf area index and a 16% increase in aboveground biomass production compared with plants grown at normal temperature, according to Martinez.

“The increase in temperature during the period of the experiment was favorable for the development of the biochemical and biophysical processes involved in plant growth,” he stated.

According to Martinez, some possible explanations for the increase in photosynthetic activity, in addition to the leaf area index and biomass production from samples of Stylosanthes capitata that experienced temperature increases, were the plant’s thermal and photosynthetic acclimatization.

The plant adjusted its physiology to not only handle the potentially stressful increase in temperature during its growth phase but also conduct photosynthesis more efficiently and even increase growth under the new climate conditions.

“The results of the study indicated that a temperature increase of up to 2°C could be advantageous for growth of some species of tropical plants, such as Stylosanthes capitata Vogel,” Martinez stated.

“We need to clarify the effects that warming will have on the reproductive phase to detect the possible impacts increased temperatures will have on flowering, pollination, fruit development and other developmental processes of these plants,” she said.

In another experiment, the researchers cultivated the forage plant Panicum maximum at a temperature 2°C above normal, at a carbon concentration of 600 parts per million (ppm), equivalent to twice the amount there is today, an amount that is expected to be reached by 2050, according to projections from the IPCC.

The researchers found that there was less partitioning of biomass to the leaves relative to the stem of plants cultivated under these conditions.

Similar results were obtained by researchers at the Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (Cena) at the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (Esalq) of USP, Piracicaba campus in an experiment conducted using Brachiaria decumbens, a common grass found on coffee plantations and the major forage plant in Brazil, commonly known as signal grass.

By cultivating the plant in an environment with 200 ppm carbon above current levels in a FACE system set up at the Embrapa Environmental Division in Jaguariúna, in inland São Paulo State, the researchers observed an increase in the production of stems and a decrease in biomass in the leaves of the plant.

“This could have a series of implications for the use of this plant as a forage plant found in over 80 million hectares of Brazilian pastureland,” said Raquel Ghini, researcher at the Embrapa Environmental Division and one of the study’s authors.

According to the assessment by Martinez, the potential impact of global climate change on plants used as pastureland needs to be investigated because plants represent the main food source for cattle in countries such as Brazil – one of the only countries in the world that produce meat and milk through the extensive farming of livestock, i.e., through livestock farming in pastures.

If climate change affects the yield of tropical crops and pastureland, there will be significant economic consequences for Brazil and for the world’s food production, she said.

“The impacts of climate change on pasture areas are very serious and are already occurring,” said Martinez. “The solution for cultivating pastures in drought-susceptible areas may be through irrigation or the use of drought-resistant species that can adapt to climate changes,” the researcher told.

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30 thoughts on “Another benefit of global warming – increased forage plants

  1. “…at a carbon concentration of 600 parts per million (ppm), equivalent to twice the amount there is today,”

    Exactly when was this study done, 1920?

  2. Plants respond favorably to increased CO2 levels and temperature…when exposed to infrared…

    …film at 11

  3. Previous comments seem to be focused on ortography. On the substance, the experiment simply confirms with an enhanced technique (T-FACE) what was already known from AR4 WG2 report on natural vegetation: warming and increased carbon concentrations in the atmosphere enhance plant growth, (AR4 says it plainly about swards, but hesitates about crops because it would compromise the idea that climate change is harmful to agriculture). The benefits are especially strong with the leguminous type of plant because they could find in the armosphere the extra nitrogen they need, so they prosper more than other plants when the climate allows for more photosynthesis of carbon.
    The Sao Paulo experiments look at a 2°C warming, and no more, apparently because some former study said that warmer than that could be harmful; however, the same natural selection process already alluded in the case of leguminous pasture would also be operating in the case of plants exposed to warming above 2°C: some varieties and species would prosper more than others, and we already know which: the leguminous plants able to gather extra nitrogen from the air. Other than that, C3 species exposed to elevated CO2 would enhance photosynthesis, while C4 plants in the same circumstances would economize on water, and would also increase their growth if they are in semi-arid environments (including many grazing and crop lands in the US South West, Central and Northern Mexico, the Northeast of Brazil, the Sahel, and many other parts of the world); in such water-stressed environments, lower water needs would enhance also growth if it was previously constrained by low humidity.

  4. First the White Lemurs, now “climate change” is apparently endangering the letter “n” !

  5. Old Huemul says:
    July 24, 2014 at 7:00 am
    ____________________
    So you and the IPCC agree on the results of this and myriad other studies: plants benefit from increased temperature and CO2. In the case of legumes, like Stylosanthes which increase nitrogen fixation in the soil, there are additional benefits of increased soil fertility.
    You won’t be winning many friends within the climate fearosphere, making public comments of this sort.

  6. It is “Boba Fett”, clone of the famed Jango Fett. Ok, now I have to read the article.

  7. So there are winners and losers from 600pm CO2 levels. Of course.
    But I doubt that the outcomes are quite so easy to predict… what if a weevil that eats such plants benefits more?

    Cynically put, the world is more complex than any useful model and so models needs to prove they has included all the critical parameters.
    And no climate model has done. I’m very critical today

  8. But it is even worse than you think!

    Increased food? Yes!
    Increased fodder? Yes!
    Increased forage? Yes!
    Increased feed? Yes!
    Increased fuel? Yes!
    Increased farm area? Yes!

  9. To test these hypotheses, the researchers conducted an experiment in which they cultivated plants in open fields, in a normal-temperature environment, and in a temperature-controlled area using a temperature free-air controlled enhancement system known as T-FACE.
    ————
    What – no models? How do they expect to get grants?

  10. In the deep south of the USA, some farmers use a variety of peanut as hay, since it’s too hot for alfalfa, and some clover varieties can produce an anti-coagulant while it is stored. The peanut plant has leaves that look a lot like red clover leaves, and smells a lot like alfalfa.

    “But it is even worse than you think!

    Increased farm area? Yes!”

    and if that whole sea level rise (which Algore promises) works out, we could clear out a few cess-pools like Manhattan, Miami, SF, and LA. Makes me think of briar patches for some reason.

  11. Increased warming
    -> Increased forage
    -> Increased deer
    -> Increased deaths from more deer colliding with the tiny cars that those worrying about global warming are demanding people drive with said cars not weighing much more than the deer being hit
    —> More deaths from global warming.

    There’s another man-made crisis successfully identified.

  12. This makes sense. For the vast majority of the earth’s history temperatures were warmer than today and had more CO2 than today.
    They are returning the plants to an environment more closely resembling the one it evolved in.

  13. Although it’s not stated explicitly, I read the post’s featured study as a try on floating the idea that climate controls plant metabolism. Surely, it would delight Michael Mann, who sells tree rings as thermometers, if that were the case.

    Size and age of plants impact their productivity more than climate, study shows

    The size and age of plants has more of an impact on their productivity than temperature and precipitation, according to a landmark study by University of Arizona researchers.
    “A fundamental assumption of our models for understanding how climate influences the functioning of ecosystems is that temperature and precipitation directly influence how fast plants can take up and use carbon dioxide,” said Enquist, a professor in the UA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology whose research lab led the study.
    “Essentially, warm and wet environments are thought to allow plant metabolism to run fast, while cold and drier environments slow down metabolism and hence lower biomass production in ecosystems,” he said. “This assumption makes sense, as we know from countless experiments that temperature and water control how fast plants can grow. However, when applied to a the scale of entire ecosystems, this assumption appears to not be correct.”
    To test the assumption on the scale of ecosystems, the team developed a new mathematical theory that assesses the relative importance of several hypothesized drivers of net primary productivity. That theory was then evaluated using a massive new dataset assembled from more than 1,000 different forest locations across the world.
    The analysis revealed a new and general mathematical relationship that governs worldwide variation in terrestrial ecosystem net primary productivity. The team found that plant size and plant age control most of the variation in plant productivity, not temperature and precipitation as traditionally thought.
    “This general relationship shows that climate doesn’t influence productivity by changing the metabolic reaction rates underlying plant growth, but instead by determining how large plants can get and how long they can live for,” said Sean Michaletz, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “This means that plants in warm, wet environments can grow more because their larger size and longer growing season enable them to capture more resources, not because climate increases the speed of their metabolism.”

    Too bad Mike.

  14. “The impacts of climate change on pasture areas are very serious and are already occurring,” said Martinez. “The solution for cultivating pastures in drought-susceptible areas may be through irrigation or the use of drought-resistant species that can adapt to climate changes,” the researcher told.
    ==============
    According to the IPCC you ain’t seen nuth’n yet.
    Sad to hear things are already occurring, it must be worse than they thought.
    I do like the adaptation idea, was there ever another choice ?

  15. A 2°C increase in temperature around the world by 2050, according to one of the scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), may be advantageous to the physiology and the biochemical and biophysical processes involved in the growth of forage plants such as Stylosanthes capitata Vogel, a legume utilized for livestock grazing in tropical countries such as Brazil.

    I wonder how hot it really has to get to do real damage to these damed Latin American forests? What about a balmy 4C and lots of toxic co2? Calamity I’m afraid.

    Abstract
    Carlos Jaramillo et. al – Science – 12 November 2010
    Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation
    Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event. We investigated the tropical forest response to this rapid warming by evaluating the palynological record of three stratigraphic sections in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.
    doi: 10.1126/science.1193833

    —————-

    Abstract
    Carlos Jaramillo & Andrés Cárdenas – Annual Reviews – May 2013
    Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
    Global Warming and Neotropical Rainforests: A Historical Perspective

    There is concern over the future of the tropical rainforest (TRF) in the face of global warming. Will TRFs collapse? The fossil record can inform us about that. Our compilation of 5,998 empirical estimates of temperature over the past 120 Ma indicates that tropics have warmed as much as 7°C during both the mid-Cretaceous and the Paleogene. We analyzed the paleobotanical record of South America during the Paleogene and found that the TRF did not expand toward temperate latitudes during global warm events, even though temperatures were appropriate for doing so, suggesting that solar insolation can be a constraint on the distribution of the tropical biome. Rather, a novel biome, adapted to temperate latitudes with warm winters, developed south of the tropical zone. The TRF did not collapse during past warmings; on the contrary, its diversity increased. The increase in temperature seems to be a major driver in promoting diversity.
    doi: 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105403

  16. Sorry, but I stumbled upon this and thought I’d share.

    “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to learn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

  17. Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
    Something many climate alarmists are ignorant of or deliberately refuse to acknowledge: increased temperatures and higher CO2 is good for plant life, making food production easier. And maybe we can even grow wine grapes in Britain again, as in the Roman Warm Period.

  18. Wow! Is this really so?! Someone ought to think of a way of increasing the temperature around plants so that they can grow faster, richer and better – it would be even better if it could be atmosphere-controlled – and solar powered! It would be revolutionary!

    Does anyone have any ideas how this could be done?

  19. I refer to the statement “A 2°C increase in temperature around the world by 2050, according to one of the scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), may be advantageous to the physiology and the biochemical and biophysical processes involved in the growth of forage plants such as Stylosanthes capitata Vogel, a legume utilized for livestock grazing in tropical countries such as Brazil.”

    May be?????

    This is why so many people are no longer taking science seriously. “May be’ is a worthless, valueless and meaningless expression.

    If scientists must qualify findings of studies/research, they need at least to give some level of precision in what they are saying.

    Imagine if instead of “may be” the statement was: “…there is a 50% confidence level of a 20% probability it will be advantageous to…”

    Now that would be meaningful and of value.

    I get frustrated every time I see the use of words, in science, such as ‘may be’ or ‘might’ or ‘could’.

  20. If only. Sadly this is all rather unlikely to happen because in all probability global temperatures peaked more than a decade ago and have now started a gentle decline to the next little ice age with the sun entering a relatively quiet phase compared to the twentieth century. A great pity because the last thing we need is for the world to become a cooler place. I’d vote for global warming any time but unfortunately there’s no way mankind can bring it on.

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