Study shows seasonal CO2 emissions from crops are growing more extreme

New research released Wednesday shows an increase in crop production has caused levels of carbon dioxide to rise and fall seasonally to a larger degree, with fluctuations growing by 50 percent in the last five decades, according to a UW-Madison news release.

Scientists at several universities, including UW-Madison, collaborated in this study, attributing this rise in CO2 seasonality to human production.

Seasonally, crops absorb CO2 in the summer after being planted and release the gas back into the atmosphere when they die in the fall. With the steep increase in food production, the magnitude of the crops absorbing and releasing CO2 has spiked.

While the area of farmed land has not significantly increased, the productivity of the land has.

UW-Madison scientist Chris Kucharik attributes this increased productivity largely to agricultural innovations, including plant breeding, post-World War II innovations and irrigation, according to the release.

“This is another piece of evidence suggesting that when [humans] do things at a large scale, we have the ability to greatly influence the composition of the atmosphere,” Kucharik said in the release.

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