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The Transgenerational Effects of Elevated CO2 on Winter Wheat

Paper Reviewed
Li, Y., Li, X., Yu, J. and Liu, F. 2017. Effect of the transgenerational exposure to elevated CO2 on the drought response of winter wheat: Stomatal control and water use efficiency. Environmental and Experimental Botany 136: 78-84.

Transgenerational effects in living organisms occur from either maternal environmental effects or from evolutionary responses to novel selection pressures. They are important because they can significantly impact a species response to environmental change.

Investigating this intriguing topic and writing as background for their study, Li et al. (2017) state that "although the responses of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) plants to drought or a single generation exposure to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration (e[CO2]) have been well documented, the transgenerational effect of e[CO2] in combination [with] drought on stomatal behavior, plant water consumption and water use efficiency (WUE) have not been investigated." Thus, they set out to conduct this first-of-a-kind experiment. More specifically, Li et al. grew winter wheat from seeds harvested from plants grown continuously under ambient (400 ppm) or elevated (800 ppm) CO2 concentrations for two generations, as well as for a third generation under either ambient (a[CO2]) or e[CO2], while also subjecting half of the plants in each treatment to progressive drought stress. And what did this transgenerational experiment reveal?

According to Li et al., their study showed that the "maternal CO2 environment modulated the response of wheat plants to drought stress in terms of biomass production, [such that] plants reared from seeds harvested from the e[CO2] maternal growth environment eliminated the negative impact of drought stress on DM." What is more, they report that "transgenerational exposure to e[CO2] also attenuated the negative impact of drought on evapotranspiration in wheat plants." And both of these findings led the team of four researchers to conclude the obvious: "transgenerational exposure of wheat plants to e[CO2] could attenuate the negative impact of drought stress in terms of DM and WUE," which points to a promising future for winter wheat farmers and consumers.

Posted 17 June 2017