Relationship of plants and climate change is subject of upcoming ISU conference

AMES, Iowa -- Whether you believe that human activity is the cause of global warming or not, one fact stands undisputed -- our climate is changing. As carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere continue to rise, global temperatures are following suit. Changes in precipitation patterns and levels, emerging plant pests and altered soil tilth are just some of the new stresses today's agriculturalists are already facing.

To better understand the problems that come with climate change and to lay a foundation for developing solutions, Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute is convening a mini-conference "Plants and Climate Change."

"Iowa's farmers will not have to face these daunting problems alone because Plant Sciences Institute researchers are working to make Iowa State a leader in the areas of plants and climate change," says Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute.

The conference will provide information from a panel of experts to help Iowans plan ways to contribute effectively to climate change solutions.

The half-day conference will welcome experts from around the country and is set for 1-5 p.m., April 25 in the Sun Room, Memorial Union, Iowa State University, Ames. The event is free and open to the public.

The conference will be valuable for anyone with ties to agriculture. Farmers, agri-business people, students and anyone interested in plants should find something of value in the presentations, said Howell.

With experts visiting from California, Ohio, New York and Illinois, Howell stressed that this is a good chance to get different perspectives.

"We want to see what the rest of the world is doing about climate change," he said.

"How can we better understand the problem and contribute effectively to the solution? How can Iowa State become a leader in the areas of plants and climate change," said Howell. "These are some of the questions we hope to address."

Gene Takle, a professor in atmospheric science and agricultural meteorology at Iowa State, will begin the conference with his presentation "Climate Change: A Quick Overview." He will evaluate effects of changes in Midwest agroecosystems.

Stephen Long, professor of crop sciences and plant biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will discuss "Crop Responses to Climate Change." Long is the deputy director and lead investigator of the Energy Biosciences Institute, a joint effort with the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

A professor of plant cell biology at the University of California Riverside, Jian-Kang Zhu, will present "Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses." His laboratory conducts research on the molecular mechanisms that underlie plant responses to harsh environments such as soil salinity.

Rattan Lal, professor in the School of Natural Resources and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, will talk about "Carbon Sequestration." Lal is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Soil Science and former president of Soil Science Society of America.

Francesco Tubiello will present "Adaptation of Agriculture, Global Food Supply and Security to Climate Change." Tubiello is a research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University in New York City where he researches the interactions between climate and agriculture and the implications for food supply, carbon and water.

The conference is sponsored by Iowa State's Plant Science Institute, Center for Carbon-Capturing Crops, Center for Metabolic Biology, Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses, Institute for Food Safety and Security and Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology.

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