Farmer in Zaouia village, Morocco. Researchers expect reductions in nutrient availability during the next decades.
Photo: ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano


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While higher levels of CO2 can boost plant growth, they reduce the concentration of key micronutrients in crops. Researchers from IFPRI projected the per capita availability of protein, iron, and zinc out to 2050 and found that rising CO2 would reduce availability of nutrients worldwide.

Over the next 30 years, climate change and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) could significantly reduce the availability of critical nutrients compared to a future without climate change, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) warns in July 2019.

The total impacts of climate-change shocks and elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are estimated to reduce growth in global per-capita nutrient availability of protein by 19.5 per cent, iron by 14.4 per cent and zinc by 14.6 per cent by the year 2050.

Improvements in technology, and market effects are projected to increase nutrient availability over current levels by 2050, but these gains are substantially diminished by the negative impacts of rising concentrations of carbon dioxide.

While higher levels of CO2 can boost photosynthesis and growth in some plants, they reduce the concentration of key micronutrients in crops. Wheat, rice, maize, barley, potatoes, soybeans and vegetables are all projected to suffer nutrient losses of about 3 per cent on average by 2050 due to elevated CO2 concentration.

Nutrient reductions differ from region to region

The effects are not likely to be felt evenly around the world, however, and many countries currently experiencing high levels of nutrient deficiency are also projected to be more affected by lower nutrient availability in the future, the researchers say.

Nutrient reductions are projected to be particularly severe in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa south of the Sahara, North Africa, and the former Soviet Union.

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