Skip to main content

2015, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13013

Canopy warming caused photosynthetic acclimation and reduced seed yield in maize grown at ambient and elevated [CO 2 ]

Global Change Biology

Ursula Ruiz-Vera, Matthew H. Siebers, David W. Drag, Donald R. Ort, and Carl J. Bernacchi


Rising atmospheric CO2 concentration ([CO2 ]) and attendant increases in growing season temperature are expected to be the most important global change factors impacting production agriculture. Although maize is the most highly produced crop worldwide, few studies have evaluated the interactive effects of elevated [CO2 ] and temperature on its photosynthetic physiology, agronomic traits or biomass, and seed yield under open field conditions. This study investigates the effects of rising [CO2 ] and warmer temperature, independently and in combination, on maize grown in the field throughout a full growing season. Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) technology was used to target atmospheric [CO2 ] to 200 μmol mol(-1) above ambient [CO2 ] and infrared heaters to target a plant canopy increase of 3.5 °C, with actual season mean heating of ~2.7 °C, mimicking conditions predicted by the second half of this century. Photosynthetic gas-exchange parameters, leaf nitrogen and carbon content, leaf water potential components, and developmental measurements were collected throughout the season, and biomass and yield were measured at the end of the growing season. As predicted for a C4 plant, elevated [CO2 ] did not stimulate photosynthesis, biomass, or yield. Canopy warming caused a large shift in aboveground allocation by stimulating season-long vegetative biomass and decreasing reproductive biomass accumulation at both CO2 concentrations, resulting in decreased harvest index. Warming caused a reduction in photosynthesis due to down-regulation of photosynthetic biochemical parameters and the decrease in the electron transport rate. The reduction in seed yield with warming was driven by reduced photosynthetic capacity and by a shift in aboveground carbon allocation away from reproduction. This field study portends that future warming will reduce yield in maize, and this will not be mitigated by higher atmospheric [CO2 ] unless appropriate adaptation traits can be introduced into future cultivars.

Go to original publication Download PDF

The Ort Lab 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.

Privacy Policy | Contact Us