School of
Integrative Biology
Stephen Long

379 ERML/134 IGB
Office: 217-244-0881
Lab: (217)244-6317

Mail: 1201 W. Gregory Dr. Urbana, IL. 61801
Lab Page

Stephen Long
Ikenberry Endowed University Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology


Ph.D. 1976, University of Leeds
B.Sc., 1972, University of Reading

Teaching Interests

IB 440, Plants and Global Change

Environmental physiology, atmospheric change impacts on crops and natural vegetation, C4 photosynthesis, energy crops, mathematical models of photosynthesis

Research topics:

  • Environmental physiology including cold tolerance
  • Global atmospheric change impacts on crops and natural vegetation
  • C4 photosynthesis
  • Biomass energy crops including Miscanthus and switchgrass
  • Mathematical models of photosynthesis

The overall objectives of my research program are as follows. 1) To understand mechanisms of plant responses to both rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and tropospheric ozone, with particular reference to photosynthesis and relating changes at the molecular and biochemical level to observations of whole systems in the field.

2) Establish the potential of mitigation of atmospheric change through the development of herbaceous energy crops.

3) Advance the development of accessible mechanistic mathematical models relating environmental effects on photosynthesis to plant productivity (see:

4) To understand the limitations to C4 photosynthesis and the adaptation of the process to cooler climates. My lab integrates molecular and biochemical studies with physiological studies of photosynthesis, using state-of-the-art and custom built gas-exchange, fluorescence and controlled environment instrumentation. Much of the work involves developing and testing hypotheses on plant environmental responses under controlled conditions and then testing these in large-scale multi-partner field facilities.

The International journals Global Change Biology (Blackwell Science) and GCB Bioenergy are edited from my laboratory.

We have active research links with several global change laboratories within and outside the US, including Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and the U.K. A number of our laboratories graduate students have undertaken a part of their research at the overseas sites.

Representative Publications

Somerville C, Youngs H, Taylor C, Davis SC, Long SP (2010). Feedstocks for Lignocellulosic Biofuels. Science. 329:5993, 790-792.

Zhu, XG; Long, SP; Ort, DR (2008) What is the maximum efficiency with which photosynthesis can convert solar energy into biomass? Current Opinion in Biotechnology 19:153-159

Dohleman, FG; Long, SP (2009). More Productive Than Maize in the Midwest: How Does Miscanthus Do It? Plant Physiology. 150:2104-2155.

Heaton, EA; Dohleman, FG; Long SP (2008) Meeting US biofuel goals with less land: the potential of Miscanthus.Global Change Biology. 14: 2000-2014.

Wittig, V.E., Ainsworth, E.A., Long, S.P. (2007) To what extent do current and projected increases in surface ozone affect photosynthesis and stomatal conductance of trees? A meta-analytic review of the last three decades of experiments. Plant, Cell & Environment, 30:1150-1162.

Bernacchi, CJ; Kimball, BA; Quarles, DR; Long, SP; Ort, DR (2007) Decreases in stomatal conductance of soybean under open-air elevation of [CO2] are closely coupled with decreases in ecosystem evapotranspiration, Plant Physiology. 143: 134-144.

Long, SP; Ainsworth, EA; Leakey, ADB; Nosberger, J; Ort, DR (2006) Food for thought: Lower-than-expected crop yield stimulation with rising CO2 concentrations, Science 312: 1918- 1921.