While the increase in carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere promotes plant growth, it also reduces the nutritional value of plants, which may have a greater impact on nutrition and food safety worldwide
Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered a new way for plants to adapt to climate change — information that can be used to help plants grow stronger while maintaining their nutritional value
Phosphorus is a fertilizer that is essential for plant growth, but the reserves of phosphorus worldwide are limited
"We can't synthesize phosphorus in the same way we synthesize nitrogen," said Hatem Rouached, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
"We need to better understand how plants regulate phosphorus to survive
Rouached and his team observed that when plants are exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, phosphorus levels in the plant's young shoots and leaves drop
"We wanted to know why plants didn't absorb more phosphorus," Rouached said
"And look at whether the decline in phosphorus levels is a defect or adaptive response, and whether there is a way to change this to ensure that plants grow and provide nutritious food
Rouached and his team dug deeper at the subcellular level and found that as an adaptive response to increased carbon dioxide levels, plants avoided excess phosphorus
Chloroplasts are where photosynthesis occurs, and chlorophyll produces nutrients
for plant growth in sunlight.
Phosphorus is also an important component
of photosynthesis and the creation of energy for cells.
"What's really important in our findings is that when we try to force plants to add a lot of phosphorus to their chloroplasts, plants can't grow," Rouached said
"We found that the increase in phytic acid levels in plants needs to be tightly controlled in order for plants to grow
in a high carbon dioxide environment.
" The researchers found that plants could not grow when phytic acid levels exceeded
a certain threshold.
Rouached said: "This paper shows for the first time that we urgently need to discuss how to protect plant malnutrition from the effects of global carbon dioxide increases