Research

As CO2 Is Rising Rice Loses B Vitamins

As CO2 Is Rising Rice Loses B Vitamins

Rice within the octagon in this field is part of an experiment started by a University of Tokyo professor and created to grow rice under different atmospheric conditions.

In the current study, researchers in Japan and China grew and analysed 18 different varieties of rice in fields and found that protein, iron and zinc levels all fell significantly in higher Carbon dioxide environments. The finding that rice's nutritional quality can suffer as atmospheric Carbon dioxide concentrations increase has notable implications for populations in regions that rely on rice for primary nutrition.

The findings suggested that such a nutritional loss would have serious consequences on the poorest citizens of some of the least-developed countries, who heavily depend on rice as a staple in their diets.

Scientists analyzed rice samples from the experimental plants, measuring the amounts of iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 found in each.

For the experiments, scientists built 17-metre-wide octagons in Japanese and Chinese rice paddies that pumped carbon dioxide to simulate the kind of CO2 concentrations expected in the next 50 years (568-590 parts per million). These vitamins are vital for the people to clinch in the energy from the food. According to the study a large part of the changes observed has to do with how higher Carbon dioxide affects the plant's structure and growth, increasing carbohydrate content and reducing protein and minerals.

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"Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries", said Professor Kazuhiko Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo, co-author of the recent study and expert in effects of air pollution on agriculture.

Rice grown at higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, like those possible later this century, has lower nutritional value, according to a study that evaluated rice grown in Japan and China under simulated carbon dioxide increases. Compared with current concentrations, the rice crops' nutrient contents all suffered under higher carbon dioxide levels. "Folate [vitamin B9] declines across the nine rice varieties ranged from 10 percent to 45 percent". The level of nutrition in plants can also affect many other living things, even bees, pandas and koalas, who live on plants - the only nutrition they get.

The study's finding is disheartening, if not surprising, to researchers in the field.

Ebi says that the rice grown under the elevated carbon scenario lost substantial amounts of protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins per grain. "Reductions in the nutritional quality of rice could affect maternal and child health for millions of people". But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.