Questions for ‘Crops are being engineered to thrive in our changing climate’  

A white man, Wolfgang Busch, examining rice plants growing in a greenhouse.

Today’s farms don’t capture as much carbon as they could. Wolfgang Busch (shown here) is among scientists looking to change that. Farms of the future may be able to actively help fight climate change.

Salk Institute

To accompany Crops are being engineered to thrive in our changing climate  


Before Reading:

  1. Knowing that plants use carbon dioxide, or CO2, to make their food, what is one way that rising levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere might in theory affect how well farm crops grow?
  2. Rising levels of CO2 are also driving climate change and a rise in episodes of extreme weather, such as droughts, floods and severe storms. What is one way that extreme weather might affect how well crops grow?

During Reading:

  1. What destroyed many of Sohabati Devi’s crops in August 2017? What allowed some of her rice plants to survive?
  2. Plants and soils absorb what percentage of the CO2 that human activities release into the air each year?
  3. What are two strategies discussed in the story for using plants to reduce how much CO2 gets into the atmosphere?
  4. What happens during the process of photosynthesis?
  5. About how much of the sunlight reaching a leaf goes to power photosynthesis?
  6. What is the role of the “safety valve” that Krishna Niyogi describes in leaves? Why are Niyogi and his colleagues interested in being able to control this safety valve?
  7. What were two effects on tobacco plants when Patricia López-Calcagno and her colleagues added genes from cyanobacteria and red algae?
  8. Why is increasing a plant’s uptake of CO2 from the air as it grows considered a short-term removal? What leads to that CO2 returning to the atmosphere?
  9. Why are deeper plant roots an advantage for keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere? Why are bigger root systems an advantage for reducing CO2?
  10. What does Pamela Ronald hope to learn by creating mutant rice plants?

After Reading:

  1. Wolfgang Busch’s team identified a gene that helps control how deeply roots grow. If the team were able to successfully use this gene to make wheat plants that could grow roots twice as deep as normal, what are two possible ways those plants might benefit the environment? What are two possible benefits for a farmer growing that variety of wheat?
  2. The story describes Pamela Ronald’s work to trigger mutations in plant genes. Imagine you created a mutation in a plant that allowed it to live twice as long as plants without the mutation. Would that change be likely to help keep CO2 out of the atmosphere? Why or why not? Use evidence from the story to support your answer.