The increase in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere can have a beneficial effect on potato yields. So said Anton Haverkort of Plant Research International, a unit of Wageningen UR, on 22 August at the biannual Potato Demo Day in Westmaas. 'International research has shown that most other crops do not react as positively to the increase in this greenhouse gas,' says Haverkort.
By 2050, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is expected rise to 550 parts per million (ppm), almost 50% higher than it is now. CO2 acts as a sort of fertiliser for plants, and in fact the plant depends on CO2 for its growth. For potatoes growing in Dutch climate conditions, the increase in the concentration of CO2 could mean an increase in harvests of up to 30%.As a result of the increasing levels of CO2, temperatures are increasing worldwide. For the Netherlands, this is expected to mean three additional frost-free weeks per year by 2050, meaning that the potatoes can be planted earlier, so they can grow and produce for a longer period. Haverkort says that this could mean a further increase in harvest of up to 20%.
The increasing yield means that the carbon footprint per kilo of the Dutch potato will drop considerably. Haverkort expects that this footprint will drop further as new phytophthora-resistant potato strains become available and reduce the need for potato growers to fight the disease chemically.