Ozone pollution will compromise efforts to increase global wheat production
Journal article, 2018

Global Change Biology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd Introduction of high-performing crop cultivars and crop/soil water management practices that increase the stomatal uptake of carbon dioxide and photosynthesis will be instrumental in realizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of achieving food security. To date, however, global assessments of how to increase crop yield have failed to consider the negative effects of tropospheric ozone, a gaseous pollutant that enters the leaf stomatal pores of plants along with carbon dioxide, and is increasing in concentration globally, particularly in rapidly developing countries. Earlier studies have simply estimated that the largest effects are in the areas with the highest ozone concentrations. Using a modelling method that accounts for the effects of soil moisture deficit and meteorological factors on the stomatal uptake of ozone, we show for the first time that ozone impacts on wheat yield are particularly large in humid rain-fed and irrigated areas of major wheat-producing countries (e.g. United States, France, India, China and Russia). Averaged over 2010–2012, we estimate that ozone reduces wheat yields by a mean 9.9% in the northern hemisphere and 6.2% in the southern hemisphere, corresponding to some 85 Tg (million tonnes) of lost grain. Total production losses in developing countries receiving Official Development Assistance are 50% higher than those in developed countries, potentially reducing the possibility of achieving UN SDG2. Crucially, our analysis shows that ozone could reduce the potential yield benefits of increasing irrigation usage in response to climate change because added irrigation increases the uptake and subsequent negative effects of the pollutant. We show that mitigation of air pollution in a changing climate could play a vital role in achieving the above-mentioned UN SDG, while also contributing to other SDGs related to human health and well-being, ecosystems and climate change.


Gina Mills

University of Gothenburg

UK Centre For Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)

Katrina Sharps

UK Centre For Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)

David Simpson

Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Microwave and Optical Remote Sensing

Håkan Pleijel

University of Gothenburg

Malin Broberg

University of Gothenburg

Johan Uddling

University of Gothenburg

Fernando Jaramillo

Stockholm University

William J. Davies

Lancaster University

F. Dentener

Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission

Maurits Van den Berg

Lancaster University

Madhoolika Agrawal

Banaras Hindu University

Shahibhushan B Agrawal

Banaras Hindu University

Elizabeth A. Ainsworth

University of Illinois

P. Buker

University of York

L. Emberson

University of York

Zhaozhong Feng

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Harry Harmens

UK Centre For Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)

Felicity Hayes

UK Centre For Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)

Kazuhiko Kobayashi

University of Tokyo

Elena Paoletti

Consiglo Nazionale Delle Richerche

Rita Van Dingenen

Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission

Global Change Biology

1354-1013 (ISSN) 1365-2486 (eISSN)

Vol. 24 8 3560-3574

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Environmental Sciences

Climate Research



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9/3/2020 8