Hole in the pocket too!

Published: Monday 15 November 2004

increased ozone concentration at ground level is damaging crops worth millions of dollars in the uk. Lisa Emberson of the Switzerland-based Stockholm Environment Institute recently developed a method to calculate the amount of ozone that crops absorb, taking into account species-specific data and environmental conditions (such as the growing season, drought and humidity). These factors, in combination with ozone concentrations, determine a plant's survival rate. Calculations made for the uk show that damages to two staple crops--wheat and potato--translate into annual economic losses of approximately us$126 million and us$25 million respectively.

The figures take into account the effect on the quantity or yield of the crop; they do not include other adverse affects like leaf injury or poor grain quality. Work is now under way to assess the threat to maize, tomato, sunflower and sugar beet, the other economically important crops sensitive to ozone.

Before industrialisation, uk's annual mean ozone concentrations were between 10 to 15 parts per billion (PPB). These levels have now risen to 30 ppb. Its crucial for agriculturists to understand the combined stresses of ozone and climate change, especially considering the projected increase in the levels of ozone and greenhouse gases.

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