There is growing concern that air pollution may have adverse impacts on crops in developing countries, yet this has been little studied. This paper addresses this issue, for a major leguminous crop of the Indian sub continent, examining the effect of air pollution in and around an Indian city. A field study was conducted using a gradient approach to elucidate the impact of air pollutants on selected production characteristics of Vigna radiata L. cv. Malviya Jyoti (mung bean) plants grown from germination to maturity at locations with differing concentrations of air pollutants around peri-urban and rural areas of Varanasi. The 6 -h daily mean SO2, NO2 and O3 concentrations varied from 8.05 to 32.2 ppb, 11.7 to 80.1 ppb and 9.7 to 58.5 ppb, respectively, between the sites. Microclimatic conditions did not vary significantly between the sites. Changes in plant performance at different sites were evaluated with reference to ambient air quality status. Reductions in biomass accumulation and seed yields were highest at the site experiencing highest concentrations of all three gaseous pollutants. The magnitude of response indicated that at peri-urban sites SO2, NO2 and O3 were all contributing to these effects, whereas at rural sites NO2 and O3 combinations appeared to have more influence. The quality of seed was also found to be negatively influenced by the ambient levels of pollutants. It is concluded that the air pollution regime of Varanasi City causes a major threat to mung bean plants, both in terms of yield and crop quality, with serious implications for the nutrition of the urban poor.
Keywords: India - mung bean - nitrogen dioxide - ozone - plant response - seed quality - sulphur dioxide - yield