A fresh FACE for climate research

Monday, 03 December, 2007

Scientists will have access to the latest in climate change technology to investigate future atmospheric conditions and their impact on plant crops, after the official opening in November of a $3.7 million climate change research facility in Horsham, Victoria.

Speaking at the facility's official opening, Minister for Agriculture Joe Helper said the Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facility would investigate how crops respond to carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere as a result of climate change.

"The research facility uses cutting-edge equipment, including special gas release systems, to consistently expose naturally grown wheat crops to different CO2 concentrations. The facility allows many aspects of the crop ecosystem to be measured.

"The Horsham FACE is the first facility of its kind in Australia to be used on crops, using technology from similar research facilities in the United States, Europe and China.

"While it is difficult to predict the impact of climate change, this facility will be an important asset in helping government and industry to make informed decisions in preparing the Australian grain industry for atmospheric changes that may eventuate," Helper said.

Dr Rob Norton from the University of Melbourne said FACE experiments will provide information that increases the accuracy of existing crop models.

"FACE technology is able to elevate carbon dioxide without compromising or modifying other variables in the field. So we will be able to test the impact of a range of carbon dioxide levels against the other factors in plant growth, to identify the opportunities presented by climate change.

"While the dramatic rises in carbon dioxide over the past 100 years are a major contributor to climate change, the gas has the potential to increase plant growth and overall crop productivity, possibly offsetting some of the predicted negative impacts of climate change," he said.

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