How does elevated ozone impact soybean? A meta-analysis of photosynthesis, growth and yield


Dr Stephen P. Long, Department of Crop Sciences, 190 ERML, 1201 W. Gregory Dr, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. Fax: +1 (217) 244 7563; e-mail:


Surface ozone concentrations ([O3]) during the growing season in much of the northern temperate zone reach mean peak daily concentrations of 60 p.p.b. Concentrations are predicted to continue to rise over much of the globe during the next 50 years. Although these low levels of ozone may not induce visible symptoms on most vegetation, they can result in substantial losses of production and reproductive output. Establishing the vulnerability of vegetation to rising background ozone is complicated by marked differences in findings between individual studies. Ozone effects are influenced by exposure dynamics, nutrient and moisture conditions, and the species and cultivars that are investigated. Meta-analytic techniques provide an objective means to quantitatively summarize treatment responses. Soybean has been the subject of many studies of ozone effects. It is both the most widely planted dicotyledonous crop and a model for other C3 annual plants. Meta-analytic techniques were used to quantitatively summarize the response of soybean to an average, chronic ozone exposure of 70 p.p.b., from 53 peer-reviewed studies. At maturity, the average shoot biomass was decreased 34% and seed yield was 24% lower. Even in studies where [O3] was < 60 p.p.b., there was a significant decrease in biomass and seed production. At low [O3], decreased production corresponded to a decrease in leaf photosynthesis, but in higher [O3] the larger loss in production was associated with decreases in both leaf photosynthesis and leaf area. The impact of ozone increased with developmental stage, with little effect on vegetative growth and the greatest effect evident at completion of seed filling. Other stress treatments, including UV-B and drought, did not alter the ozone response. Elevated carbon dioxide significantly decreased ozone-induced losses, which may be explained by a significant decrease in stomatal conductance.