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Warming weather could reduce the nutritional value of rice

Hundreds of millions of people in Asia rely on rice not only as a staple but as their main source of nutrition. But new research suggests the rice they eat will become less nutritious due to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

The study found that rice exposed to elevated levels of carbon dioxide contains lower amounts of several important nutrients.

Currently, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere average around 410 parts per million, up from 350 parts per million in the 1980s, largely due to the burning of fossil fuels. The researchers, a New York Times article explains, looked at how crops responded to levels of around 580 parts per million, which could prove tough to avoid this century without drastic changes.

The research involved exposing experimental rice fields in China and Japan to the same elevated levels of carbon dioxide that are expected to occur worldwide later this century.

What did the study find?

The scientists found that the chemical composition of a plant depends on the balance of the carbon dioxide it takes in from the air and the nutrients it absorbs from the soil. Upset this balance, and the plant can change in unexpected ways.

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