With the help of Envirotron, a controlled-atmosphere facility at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Griffin, and sensory equipment, scientists are learning how agricultural crops will react to future climate change.

Using a series of enclosed growth chambers, researchers can study how stresses affect plants. The chambers allow them to control temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and light. And they subject plants to air pollutants and other atmospheric gases.

The sensory equipment is a device called a Phytosynthesis and Transpiration Monitor (PTM). The PTM sensors attach to plants and with the help of computer software, they show what plants need.

“The data from the sensors is transmitted to a computer and processed. We then know how well a plant responds to different environmental conditions and if it's under stress,” says Gerrit Hoogenboom, an agricultural engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Hoogenboom and visiting Israeli scientist Jiftah Ben-Asher are using the Envirotron and PTM to study global warming's effect on corn.

“Until now, most of what we know has come through computer modeling,” he says. “Using this method we can directly measure how global warming will affect agricultural crops. We know what has happened in the past, but we don't know what's going to happen in the year 2070 and how it can ultimately impact agriculture.”

Hoogenboom and Ben-Asher are recording how corn plants react to changes in temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and other major variables that can affect crops.