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2015, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1509777112

An analysis of ozone damage to historical maize and soybean yields in the United States

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Justin M. McGrath, Amy M. Betzelberger, Shaowen Wang, Eric Shook, Xin-Guang Zhu, Stephen P. Long, and Elizabeth A. Ainsworth


Numerous controlled experiments find that elevated ground-level ozone concentrations ([O3]) damage crops and reduce yield. There have been no estimates of the actual yield losses in the field in the United States from [O3], even though such estimates would be valuable for projections of future food production and for cost–benefit analyses of reducing ground-level [O3]. Regression analysis of historical yield, climate, and [O3] data for the United States were used to determine the loss of production due to O3 for maize (Zea mays) and soybean (Glycine max) from 1980 to 2011, showing that over that period production of rain-fed fields of soybean and maize were reduced by roughly 5% and 10%, respectively, costing approximately $9 billion annually. Maize, thought to be inherently resistant to O3, was at least as sensitive as soybean to O3 damage. Overcoming this yield loss with improved emission controls or more tolerant germplasm could substantially increase world food and feed supply at a time when a global yield jump is urgently needed.

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The LongLab is supported by many public and private partnerships, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the UK Government's Department for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

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