Temperature, rainfall, soil stability, and many other factors contribute to plant growth (and in turn successful agriculture).
Humans do our best to help influence and manipulate these conditions to improve our ability to grow crops, but even this is unable to change the basic fact that there are certain areas of the world that are just more conducive to growing food. They will always be more productive than other regions.
But there is one significant factor that can change those regions and also change plant growth globally in ways we still can only barely predict.
Measuring the Immeasurable
While we can measure and extrapolate effects that rising global temperatures will have on plant growth, there are still many unknowns.
If the Gulf Stream shuts down due to rising ocean temperatures, what effects will that have on temperatures and climate in the US and Europe? What if the rest of the thermohaline circulation systems shut down as well?
At this point in time, these unknowns remain largely unmeasurable. Instead, scientists have decided to measure what they can and also focus on things that they can measure in more detail.
Designing a Solution
Researchers at Washington State University have been working on a system to direct measure the effect of increasing temperature on plant growth, along with a number of other conditions. The hope is to be able to quantify the effect with a vast variety of seedling types.
The device they have constructed is called the LemnaTec Scanalyzer Discovery Platform. While it is an in-lab experimental system, it can simulate natural light conditions and a number of other environmental effects to see how crops do under specific circumstances.
One of the primary experiments will be a complete run-down of different stress effects, such as drought, heat, infections or infestations from pests, and salinity in the soil. Also, how all of the above will affect the plants’ capability to photosynthesize.
At the same time as running the 6,000 seedling system, the scientists will be able to genetically sequence and analyse all of the plants in the hopes of determining better resistance traits for all the named stressors.
Run Down The Clock
With the clock ticking, they hope to be able to pump out resistance genes and general scientific knowledge quickly to keep the world food supply consistent for all farmers in all countries, even while dealing with a rapidly changing planet.
Photo CCs: Beaufort Permafrost1 from Wikimedia Commons