Air Pollution and Horticulture: An Overview

in HortScience
Author:
David C. MacLeanBoyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

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Abstract

Current interest in air pollution effects on vegetation is derived from 3 basic concerns: economic, aesthetic, and ecologic. The economic concern is an obvious one. Air pollution can result in reduced yield or impaired quality of the harvestable product, either through effects on its appearance, which affect its marketability, or its internal composition that may affect its nutritive value. Commercial losses in horticulture and other agricultural operations due to air pollution amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The esthetic concern, though less pragmatic, also is important. Air pollution can cause foliar symptoms or altered growth that detract from the appearance of native plants in natural areas or ornamental plants in landscaped properties, public parks, and along highways. The third concern has to do with ecologic imbalances caused by air pollution. Vegetation plays an important role in soil and water conservation. It provides food and habitats for wildlife; it is essential for the O2-CO2 balance in nature; and it plays a vital role in the recycling of many elements in the ecosystem. Thus, air pollution directly affects the economic, aesthetic, and ecologic value of plants and these, in turn, directly or indirectly affect the well-being of man.

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