The sight of farmers in China, bent over rice fields enveloped in air pollution, inspired researcher Colin Carter of the University of California, Davis to find out how surface ozone was impacting their most important crop.
“You couldn’t see from one end of the field to the other. And the sunlight wasn’t even getting to the plants. So it sort of struck me that pollution today in China is a bigger issue for agriculture than climate change is. The two are related, but they are different.”
For the first time, Carter and his colleagues were able to identify a specific stage of a rice plant’s development as being vulnerable to surface ozone, a form of pollution that’s similar to smog. This information can be used to help the country implement regulatory policies to control surface ozone during critical stages of a rice plant’s growth.
“The factors that cause surface ozone also lead to climate change. So, if the pollution is controlled, not only will it give immediate benefit to agriculture, but it will also help in the battle against climate change.”