Over the past five decades, agriculture has experienced a massive shift in crop production. We have basically learned how to produce more crop per acre, making production more efficient. Boston University assistant professor Josh Gray says “We know that crops have increased in productivity over this time period and they were in the right place to be influencing this.”
On the other side of this, though, it also appears that an increase in crop production has also altered the ecology of the planet, as crops absorb CO2 in the plant respiration process of photosynthesis, during the summer, and then release the CO2 they have stored when they die in the winter. This introduction of winter CO2 affects the global season changes.
Gray continues, “We did the math and it turns out—surprising to me—they actually account for a lot of that increase. This is a direct consequence of intensive management of these ecosystems. The still dominant effect with relation to climate change is related to this long-term increase in emissions. Almost everything is related to atmosphere.”
Two studies have been conducted to learn more about this phenomenon. it is both good and bad that both of these studies basically reach exactly the same conclusion.
University of Maryland atmospheric science professor Ning Zeng comments that both of these studies basically argue the same thing, just arriving at the same conclusion through two separate methods. “Basically, we rely on, to a large degree, a model and atmospheric CO2 observations, and their study [Gray’s] analyzed in more detail the specific agricultural change down to specific crop species Underlying our analysis, we did the same thing. It’s very encouraging.”
Zeng adds, “Changes in the way we manage the land can literally alter the breathing of the biosphere.”