Crop physiology
and global change


A new facility for discovering the effects of atmospheric change upon major crops
and to prepare our crops and crop systems for the future.
Principal Investigators: Stephen Long, Evan DeLucia, and Don Ort
Site Manager: Tim Mies
Department of Crop Sciences, 190 ERML, 1201 W. Gregory Dr., Urbana, IL 61801

What is the problem?

The composition of the atmosphere in Illinois changing. By the year 2050, the amount of carbon dioxide will be 70% more than in 1960, and the amount of ozone at the surface during the summer will have more than doubled.

Ozone damage cost US agriculture $2.5 billion in decreased crop yield last year (USEPA/USDA-ARS).

The high localized ozone exposure in Illinois and the high sensitivity of soybean to ozone could significantly lower the competitiveness of Illinois agriculture.

In 1999, recorded ozone levels for central Illinois exceeded the thresholds for crop yield reduction in 28 of 31 days of August.

If nothing is done, how will soybean production be impacted?

Decreased bean quality, particularly protein content and possibly flavanoids. Decreased nitrogen and water uptake threatens increased water pollution. At present, peak ozone levels in Illinois are estimated to decrease soybean yield by 20%.

How will SoyFACE help?

To find and test: Practices that will allow maintenance of yield quality and quantity, while protecting the environment. New genotypes, both from conventional breeding and gene technology that are better adapted to future conditions.

To discover how: Yield quality and quantity will change with fertilizer and water use. Pests, diseases, and weeds are affected.

In the field, how can we add gases that will just blow away?

FACE uses the wind to elevate the concentrations of these gases. Plots are surrounded by a ring of poles supporting tubes with micropores that release carbon dioxide or ozone. If the wind is coming from the west, the pores on the west side release the gas so that it is blown across the ring; if from the east, the pores on the east open, and so on.

What are the advantages of FACE?

FACE avoids any changes to the micro-environment imposed by chambers, thereby providing the most reliable estimates of plant responses to elevated carbon dioxide and ozone. The large scale of FACE allows assessment of absolute change in yield, water, and water use, as well as cultivar and fertilizer trials. SoyFACE will support a large range of integrated studies on the same plant material, promoting a comprehensive scientific understanding of atmospheric change.

FACE stands for Free-Air gas Concentration Enrichment

This new technology allows controlled carbon dioxide and ozone enrichment of large plots within a field without any enclosure. With a flick of a switch, large areas of crop can be exposed to the atmospheric composition expected in 2050.

Impression of one FACE ring in the field. Wind direction and velocity is measured in the center and the computer then controls the release of gases to maintain the simulated future conditions within the ring.

View of the FACE rings on the Maricopa farm of the University of Arizona. SoyFACE will eventually consist of 20 FACE rings, each 20-m in diameter. It will be the only facility of its type in the Midwest and the only one worldwide to examine the effects of both ozone and carbon dioxide.
SoyFACE is supported by the Sentinel Program of the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR). Carbon dioxide supply supported by ADM.

More information about SoyFACE
National Geographic News report on SoyFACE
CSB News,
Earth's Metabolism Gets a Boost
Illinois Researchers Test Effect of Climate Change on Crops, Ill. Researchers Test Climate Effects

Created 01/26/01
Updated 10/12/04