USDA scientists say future levels of ground-level ozone could reduce soybean yields by an average of 23 percent. Researchers with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Champaign, Illinois and the University of Illinois screened 10 soybean varieties released between 1952 and 2003 for ozone tolerance and sensitivity in Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment experiments. SoyFACE involves testing plants in open-air field conditions under atmospheric conditions predicted for the year 2050. That’s when ozone concentrations are expected to be 50 percent higher than today’s concentrations.
Researchers found that exposure to 82 parts per billion ozone reduced soybean yields by an average of 23 percent across all 10 varieties. They also found significant differences in ozone tolerance among the varieties. And they didn’t see any significant improvement in ozone tolerance in soybean varieties released since the 1980s. They predict there is potential for breeding more ozone-tolerant varieties.