The smog cloud choking China is blotting out so much of the sun that plants will have difficulty growing and the country’s agriculture could be crippled, warn Chinese scientists – comparing the effects of the pollution to a “nuclear winter.”
Photos of murky grey expanses which are reputedly the nation’s cities have proven shocking enough, as has the likelihood that millions of Chinese will be killed by smog-induced disease and that cloud now poisons neighbouring countries, but researchers now say it is in danger of decimating the nation’s agricultural output.
A professor with a Chinese agricultural university has conducted experiments in which seedlings which formerly took 20 days to grow ended up taking two months under smoggy conditions, and says greenhouses will be the first to be hit – though by no means the last:
“They will be lucky to live at all. Now almost every farm is caught in a smog panic.
A large number of representatives of agricultural companies have suddenly showed up at academic meetings on photosynthesis in recent months and sought desperately for solutions.
Our overseas colleagues were shocked by the phenomenon because in their countries nothing like this had ever happened.”
The effect is, he says, “somewhat similar to a nuclear winter.”
A researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth provides the less than reassuring news that via satellite data the authorities may actually now how much of an impact the smog is having but are keeping the results secret to avoid a panic:
“Such studies are sensitive and their results will probably not be released to the public.
Some government officials might worry that linking smog to agricultural production would prompt a panic.
But there is no denying the sunlight that reaches Chinese soil has been dramatically reduced in recent years.”
Desperate farmers are said to be experimenting with even more intense use of growth hormones and even artificial lighting in an effort to preserve their yields – although given that most of China’s power comes from coal this may not have the intended result.