London, January 10 : Researchers at the University of California, Irvine say that extra-reflective crops that bounce sunshine back into space may prove very helpful in battling global warming.
Christopher Doughty, an expert at the university, says that such crops can help solve a very significant problem relating to geoengineering - the notion of changing Earth's climate with sunshades or a blanket of reflective aerosols to counter global warming.
Scientists worry that resorting to such means for changing the planet's climate may lead to a huge reduction in rainfall.
Doughty, however, says that it may be possible to deal with this problem. According to him, models show that geoengineering near the equator hits rainfall hardest, but focusing on latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees would produce a much smaller drop in rainfall.
He further says that growing crops that are more reflective, or modifying plants as such, may help cool these regions by an average of 1 degree Celsius.
While making a presentation at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco last month, Doughty said that the key was to deploy leaves that sport a thick layer of hairs, which reflect near-infrared wavelengths back out into space.
He revealed that super-hairy strains of soya, which have already been bred, could reflect three to five per cent more sunlight.
If planted in huge amounts, Doughty reckons, the amount of reflection of sunlight shown by the super-hairy soya crop would be enough to generate the cooling effect.