Professor Andrew Fleming

Research Area: Leaf form and function

Institution: University of Sheffield


Summary of Research Area:

Increasing CO2 levels are a predominant feature of climate change. Even if mitigation strategies are implemented, atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to rise over the rest of the century, with a multitude of direct and indirect effects on the global food system. In many countries, rice is the staple crop and there is significant concern as to how yields (and thus food production) will change over the next decades in the face of such CO2-driven climate change. Resilience in rice production in the face of a changing climate is a major challenge for many countries, concerns amplified by the projected rise in population and pressure on natural resources. Failure to adequately address this long-term problem will magnify major humanitarian, social and political challenges for many of the poorest people on the planet.
How rice yield will respond to elevated CO2 (eCO2) is a complex problem, involving not simply the plant itself but also interactions with, e.g., the soil microbiome. In any scenario, optimizing the ability of the rice plant to fix CO2 under future conditions of eCO2 will at least provide a solid foundation for optimizing any potential yield gain (or minimizing/offsetting potential negative effects of eCO2 on crop performance). Our overall goal is to provide future farmers access to rice cultivars which have been bred to optimize photosynthesis in a high CO2 world.