During the Anthropocene period, when human activities began to have a major impact on climate and the environment, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are rapidly emitted due to human activities burning fossil fuels.
This has a negative effect on how plants get their nutrients from the soil, according to a study recently published in the journal Trends in Plant Science. According to French researchers, increasing levels of carbon dioxide in particular reduce the nitrogen content of plant tissues, but the reasons for this are still unknown.
A lack of nitrogen in plants also means that less nutrition and protein is available to humans. “This phenomenon may affect two main nutrients essential to human nutrition,” said lead author Alain Gojon of France’s National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (INRA) in a press release.
“The first is protein, which is built from nitrogen,” says Gojon. “It can be a big problem in a country. The second is iron. Iron deficiency already affects an estimated 2 billion people worldwide,” he added.
Higher levels of carbon dioxide can speed up the process of photosynthesis in plants. Yet humans are producing so many greenhouse gases that plants will be depleted of nutrients and minerals. Most agricultural products and plants cannot obtain nitrogen directly from the atmosphere and rely on nitrates and ammonia produced by soil bacteria.
The only sources of nitrogen directly from the atmosphere are legumes such as peas, lentils and other legumes, and an ancient plant called the daffodil. These plants make use of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their cells. However, all plants only absorb minerals such as iron and phosphorus from the soil through their roots.
In an official statement published by the publisher Trends in Plant Science Cell Press, study co-author Antoine Martin, who works at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), said: “It is clear that rice and wheat” Contains nutritionally the increase in carbon dioxide levels has adversely affected major agricultural products used around the world, such as corn, and this will have a major impact on food quality and global food security.”