Plants Need CO2

Plants require various elements to remain viable and flourish in their growth.  One of the more vital elements to the health of plants is carbon which plants obtain from the gas, carbon dioxide, otherwise known as CO2.  Carbon dioxide is the lifeblood of plants.  Just as human beings require oxygen to be able to breathe and survive, plants require carbon dioxide. The chemical bond between a carbon atom and the two oxygen atoms forming CO2 is a strong one.   Plants use an enzyme, RuBP carboxylase (Rubisco) to help break this chemical bond and extract carbon while releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere through transpiration.  Interestingly, the presence of soluble silicon stimulates the production of this enzyme as well as chlorophyll creating higher concentrations per unit area of leaf tissue.  This effectively increases the plant’s metabolic efficiency meaning it can make better use of available light.

CO2 is required for photosynthesis.  The process of photosynthesis is based upon a chemical reaction that requires carbon to use in making the sugars the plant needs to grow and survive.  Photosynthesis requires 6 molecules of carbon dioxide and 6 molecules of water and light energy. These are the three components that are necessary before a plant is able to “breathe” and then produces carbohydrates and releases oxygen. The formal writing out of the equation is as follows: 6CO2+ 6H2O + V = C6H12O6 + 6O2.

The catalyst for the reaction, chlorophyll, contains magnesium.  It is also just one of the three organo-metallic compounds forming the basis for life.  Hemoglobin and hemocyanin are the other two organometallic compounds.  After understanding the primary role which carbon dioxide plays in plant growth and the overall health of the plant, it is easy to see why it is that important to maintain plenty of carbon dioxide for your plants.  Enriching the air with CO2 is one manner of providing your plants with a number of benefits.  Boosting the plants with CO2 gives the most remarkable response of all the nutrients in plant bulk.

All of this information comes in light of research that has been done over the course of the past century.  All of which is done to benefit both agricultural growers and hobby growers. Increasing crop yields means increased food production in the case of the agricultural growing community and better gardens all across the country and even the world.  So just what are the benefits of CO2 enrichment that you can have for your plants?  Higher levels of CO2 in plants aids in promoting a better resistance to otherwise growth-retarding effects of environmental stresses.

Plants are categorized primarily into two different categories based upon how they collect and metabolize carbon dioxide.  The categories are C3 and C4 plants which distinguish whether or not the plant gathers and stores phosphoglyceric acid (PGA) into either a 3 carbon or 4 carbon molecule. One factor that affects the rate of which photosynthesis and the other chemical reactions that occur in plants and in all forms of life is temperature.  As a general rule, the reaction rate doubles every 10o F that environmental temperature is increased.  This can be beneficial until the heat becomes too extreme and the plant becomes overheated and loses too much water.  Plants control their water levels through the opening and closing of structures located on the bottom side of plant leaves called stomata.  The releasing of water helps to cool down the plant in the cases mentioned above where the temperature is too high.  Through these same openings, plants absorb CO2 and release O2.  With higher level of CO2 concentration in the air, the stomata don’t have to be as open in order to absorb sufficient levels.  When the stomata are not as open, there is less water lost by the plant and therefore less water required for uptake to keep the plant well hydrated.  Higher levels of CO2 makes the plant more efficient with its water use.

All of these things are just some of the reasons that understanding the role which carbon dioxide plays in the health and growth of your plants or crops is important.  The more you enrich the CO2 around your plants, the more they will be able to grow and the healthier your plants will be overall.  Failing to provide adequate CO2 could result in severe growth-retardation for your plants.  However, the opposite is true if there is ample carbon dioxide ready for uptake as your plants will have an opportunity to thrive and be more efficient in their utilization of all the elements and molecules involved in plant growth. In most cases, good air circulation can provide adequate CO2 for the plant’s needs.