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Field phenotyping under elevated CO2

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations will continue to rise, underlining the need to develop novel breeding lines that are adapted to future atmospheric CO2 concentrations [CO2]. Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) is the established method to elevate [CO2] experimentally in the field. Recent meta-analysis of FACE studies over 27 years showed an increase in yield with an increase in [CO2] for C3 grain crop species of about 19% (Kimball 2016). However, the limited variation in most species leads to questions: 1) Is there genetic variation in breeding material for the response of yield and quality to [CO2]? 2) Has selection for desired traits led to co-selection or selection against responsiveness to [CO2]?

Elevated [CO2] has an effect on crop traits at multiple levels such as increase in photosynthetic rates, reduced transpiration, altered starch content, increased vulnerability to pests differing per species. To better predict genetic x [CO2] interactions well parameterized modelling in combination with dedicated field phenotyping under elevated [CO2] is mandatory.

BREED-FACE is the infrastructure to phenotype novel varieties under free air CO2 enrichment.

Experimental set up

[CO2] is elevated through conventional technology in the field typically to 600 ppm (a)
Three octagonals of 17.5 meter in diameter allow for 126 plots of 1.5 x 3m in total under elevated [CO2] (b) and double the area for control plots. The plot size is not fixed but regarded minimum for accurate yield estimates. The whole area is covered by an automatic positioning system (c) combined with multiples field phenotyping techniques for non-invasive quantification of functional and structural plant traits (Cendrero-Mateo 2016 et al.).

The mobile (d) breedFACE is currently located in Campus Klein-Altendorf (e) of the experimental field station of the University Bonn. This area allows growth of typical crop species in Germany such as barley, wheat, and sugarbeet.


Access is provided, but not limited to EPPN members, among others, ideally one crop species is planted for one growing season in the BreedFACE to continue standard agricultural practice as much as possible. The location allows for planting in autumn for winter-wheat and –barley or in spring for summer crop species. When species are combined they should be of similar height. Participating with original research questions to existing varieties planted in the BreedFACE also belong to the opportunities.

References, funding, networks, partners

Kimball (2016) Crop responses to elevated CO2 and interactions with H20, N and temperature. CurrentOpinion in Plant Biology 31:36-43.

Cendrero-Mateo : FZJ-2017-04909

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