Andrew D. Brosig/The Morning Sun/AP

Weeds Grow Strong in Face of Climate Change

June 30, 2008 02:50 PM
by Rachel Balik
The discovery that weeds thrive in carbon dioxide-dense areas raise questions about the potential benefits of their resiliency.

30-Second Summary

Ralph Waldo Emerson described a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered” but as researchers discover how resilient weeds are to rising carbon dioxide levels, some say we can make honest plants out of weeds. While most scientists are concerned that weeds will inherit the earth and even hinder the growth of valuable crops, weed ecologist Lewis Ziska “couldn’t repress a certain admiration” for the flourishing weeds he produced during an experiment in urban Baltimore.

Lewis Ziska believes that ancestors of our current, domesticated crops may prove capable of surviving climate change if they are in the weed family. Understanding and harnessing the durable qualities of weeds may provide a key into remedying the food crisis sparked by climate change. “Ingenuity may be the mother of invention, but poverty is definitely the father,” Ziska says.

U.S. crops are suffering considerably due to climate change, and production of corn is predicted to decrease by five percent in the next 20-25 years if temperatures continue to rise. Farmers are looking into more drought-resistant crops, but part of the problem is an inability to curb weed growth.

Weeds often develop immunities to pesticides and are capable of speedy biological evolution. It is these qualities that both make weeds a potent enemy to farmers and offer a potential remedy to the ills of climate change.

Headline Link: ‘Can Weeds Help Solve the Climate Crisis?’

Background: Climate change could hurt crops

Key Player: Weeds

Related Topic: Global warming hikes up allergies


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