Together with our partners from the Justus-Liebig University Gießen, the Philipps University Marburg, the Max-Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg and the "Landesamt für Umwelt und Geologie" (Hessen Conservation, Environment and Geology Institute) we aim to establish a unique worldwide outdoor research infrastructure. The initiative is supported by the Hessen region as part of its LOEWE excellence research-funding program.
Minister for climate protection Priska Hinz opens the closing event of the FACE2FACE cooperative research project at Hochschule Geisenheim University
FACE2FACE is a research project funded by the LOEWE Hessen Excellence-Initiative. The project’s scientists are cultivating plants in an atmosphere rich in CO2 to simulate the increased CO2 concentrations seen in climate change. There are only 20 of the high complex FACE facilities worldwide, with three of them based in Gießen and Geisenheim. This is an exceptional cooperative project between four partners : The Justus-Liebig University Gießen, Hochschule Geisenheim University, the Max-Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg and the Hessen Conservation, Environment and Geology Institute in Wiesbaden.
From January 2014 to fall 2017, scientists working for the Loewe FACE2FACE program studied relevant agricultural ecology systems in Hessen under climate change conditions: Grasslands in Gießen, viticulture and field vegetable production in Geisenheim. Given that we can expect increasing CO2 concentrations until 2050, the scientists wanted to focus on possible effects on cultivation processes. Since the beginning of the industrial age, the CO2 concentration has increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) to over 400 ppm. We are expecting 480 ppm by 2050. This development has no precedent in data from previous centuries. However, CO2 is not only a potent greenhouse gas, it also promotes plant growth via photosynthesis.
The FACE systems (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) at both sites increased CO2 in the atmosphere. The site in Geisenheim (Vineyard FACE; in operation since 2014) and Gießen (GiFACE or Giessen Grassland FACE; in operation since 1998) both have a diameter of 8 meters, while Geisenheim's second FACE site is 12 meters in diameter. The field vegetable production site, which is not yet ready for use, also measures 12 metres in diameter. At each site, three circular areas were enriched with CO2 while three control circles of the same surface area enabled effects to be monitored.
The FACE2FACE project focused on examining the effects, mechanisms and feedback of increased CO2 concentrations and other climatic variables caused by climate change. They analyzed the effects of low water supply and warming on climate-relevant emissions from soils, microbial changes in soils and plant surfaces, effects on animal pests and fungal pathogens, as well as physiological and substance-related reactions in agricultural crops.
FACE2FACE scientists gained interesting insights into the "black box" of our CO2 -rich future. Some of the results corresponded to our expectations, while some of them were rather surprising.
Geisenheim Vineyard-FACE Experiment:
Experiments on field vegetable production (spinach, radishes, cucumbers) could only be carried out on a limited scale. The experiment only focused on reactions to modified water supply without examining the effects of a higher CO2 concentration. Only a slight water supply reduction had significant effects on the substances influencing product quality with regard to the dry mass (e.g., malic acid and phosphorous).
In this sub-project, climate-relevant greenhouse gas emissions (N2O, CO2, CH4) from soils used for viticulture and horticulture are examined under increased CO2 concentrations. The project also aims to collect data on the effects of soil cultivation, irrigation, fertilization and extreme climate events such as heavy rainfall on the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions. Gas analyses with photoacoustic spectroscopy are carried out for data collection, which will be used for improving existing ecosystem models.
This sub-project also examines the effects of increased CO2 concentration on phenology and physiological processes as well as fruit and internal substance development of the Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties. In the course of the vegetation period, data on the vines’ physiological status is collected using non-invasive measurements of greenhouse gas changes and chlorophyll fluorescence. Alongside yield parameters, berry quantity, quality, and wine substances are analyzed.
This sub-project examines the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations combined with water stress on phenology and yield of field vegetables. The analysis aims to examine the effects of interactions between the chosen environmental factors on water use efficiency and yield processes, using (1) experimental data and (2) a model that combines plant architecture and growth models.
In this part of the project the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 concentration and reduced water supply on product quality of field vegetables (spinach, radishes and cucumbers) are being examined. Substance groups (minerals, phenols) are analyzed with regard to changes in their composition and concentration. We are also planning to carry out experiments on sensor technologies and density of harvest yields.
In this sub-project possible effects of increased CO2 concentration on interactions between vines and two economically damaging pests (plasmopara viticola, pathogen carried by the downey mildew and Lobesia botrana, the European grapevine moth) are being examined. To achieve results, data on developmental biology, or more specifically, pathogenesis of the pests and modifications of pest-relevant anatomic characteristics of the vine are collected. On a molecular level, modifications of levels of relevant defence gene expressions of the host plant are being analyzed.
Higher CO2 levels causing modifications of the N2 supply in soils, and of the uptake, transportation and storage of nitrogen compounds within the plant can have a major influence on wine quality. This sub-project deals with possible strategies for ensuring sufficient nitrogen supply in order to compensate for the negative effects of higher CO2 levels. To develop such strategies scientists are examining the qualitative composition of amino acids in the generative and vegetative parts of the vine and are looking into modifications of the activity of specific enzymes within the vine.