The productivity, product quality and competitive ability of important agricultural and horticultural plants in many regions of the world may be adversely affected by current and anticipated concentrations of ground-level ozone (O3). Exposure to elevated O3 typically results in suppressed photosynthesis, accelerated senescence, decreased growth and lower yields. Various approaches used to evaluate O3 effects generally concur that current yield losses range from 5% to 15% among sensitive plants. There is, however, considerable genetic variability in plant responses to O3. To illustrate this, we show that ambient O3 concentrations in the eastern United States cause substantially different levels of damage to otherwise similar snap bean cultivars. Largely undesirable effects of O3 can also occur in seed and fruit chemistry as well as in forage nutritive value, with consequences for animal production. Ozone may alter herbicide efficacy and foster establishment of some invasive species. We conclude that current and projected levels of O3 in many regions worldwide are toxic to sensitive plants of agricultural and horticultural significance. Plant breeding that incorporates O3 sensitivity into selection strategies will be increasingly necessary to achieve sustainable production with changing atmospheric composition, while reductions in O3 precursor emissions will likely benefit world food production and reduce atmospheric concentrations of an important greenhouse gas.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Plant Science