Increased temperatures may safeguard the nutritional quality of crops under future elevated CO2 concentrations

Iris H. Köhler, Steven C. Huber, Carl J. Bernacchi, Ivan R. Baxter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) deficiencies are a global human health problem that may worsen by the growth of crops at elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration (eCO2). However, climate change will also involve higher temperature, but it is unclear how the combined effect of eCO2 and higher temperature will affect the nutritional quality of food crops. To begin to address this question, we grew soybean (Glycine max) in a Temperature by Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (T-FACE) experiment in 2014 and 2015 under ambient (400 μmol mol−1) and elevated (600 μmol mol−1) CO2 concentrations, and under ambient and elevated temperatures (+2.7°C day and +3.4°C at night). In our study, eCO2 significantly decreased Fe concentration in soybean seeds in both seasons (−8.7 and −7.7%) and Zn concentration in one season (−8.9%), while higher temperature (at ambient CO2 concentration) had the opposite effect. The combination of eCO2 with elevated temperature generally restored seed Fe and Zn concentrations to levels obtained under ambient CO2 and temperature conditions, suggesting that the potential threat to human nutrition by increasing CO2 concentration may not be realized. In general, seed Fe concentration was negatively correlated with yield, suggesting inherent limitations to increasing seed Fe. In addition, we confirm our previous report that the concentration of seed storage products and several minerals varies with node position at which the seeds developed. Overall, these results demonstrate the complexity of predicting climate change effects on food and nutritional security when various environmental parameters change in an interactive manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-886
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • boron
  • canopy position
  • climate change
  • elevated air temperature
  • elevated atmospheric CO
  • iron
  • seed mineral concentrations
  • soybean
  • zinc


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