Tropospheric and surface ozone pollution pose significant threats to global crop production and food security, but farmers are largely unaware of its impact on agriculture and damage to ecosystems, say scientists.

According to scientists, ozone, as an air pollutant, is highly oxidising and damages plant tissues. But because it is an invisible, odourless gas that often co-occurs with other stresses, such as heat stress, farmers do not directly experience it.

Baerbel Sinha, head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, in Mohali, India, says: “If one wants to look at where ozone is possibly disturbing the economics on a large scale, and where one may also be able to educate farmers better, it would be the legumes — soybean, chickpeas and beans in general are very ozone sensitive, their prices are not regulated and they display visible ozone damage on the leaf.”

Monitoring stations in agricultural areas can help farmers get a better understanding of ozone concentrations and raise knowledge and awareness of the issue, besides providing useful data for the science, say Sinha and other scientists who presented at a session on ‘Air Pollution and Sustainable and Resilient Food Production’ at the 2021 Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress (12-15 June) held in Brisbane, Australia.

Amos Tai, associate professor of the Earth System Science Programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says that where there is no ozone pollution, current crop production can be two to 18 per cent higher. “In our study, we have found that about 10 to 50 per cent of the observed crop sensitivities to excess heat can arise from the higher ozone that actually comes with higher temperature.”

Read the full article about ozone pollution and crop loss at Eco-Business.