In the past 150 years, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 410 ppm. For farmers this is mixed news. Any change in familiar weather patterns caused by the atmospheric warming this rise is bringing is bound to be disruptive. But more carbon dioxide means more fuel for photosynthesis and therefore enhanced growth—sometimes by as much as 40%.
A growing world population, coupled with on-going and anticipated climate change, demands accelerated improvements in agricultural productivity. As the pioneer land grant university, Michigan State University has been an international leader in plant science research for the last 50 years. This continues today with the establishment in 2016 of the Plant Resilience Institute (PRI) as part of Michigan State University’s Global Impact Initiative that has a goal of hiring 100 new faculty to accelerate discovery of solutions to grand challenges. Meeting global food needs and improving food security in the face of climate change is one such priority. The mission of the PRI is to enhance plant resilience to environmental challenges including extremes in weather and climate change, and to become a “Center of Excellence” for foundational and translational plant research aimed at increasing the productivity and quality of food and energy crops.