Scientists at the University of Sheffield have learned that farming with crushed silicate rocks mixed into the soil could improve global food security, increase crop yields, promote soil health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects,” study lead author David Beerling told Phys.org, “but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon.” As the rocks slowly dissolve in the soil, they release nutrients while absorbing carbon dioxide. Most importantly, crushed silicate rocks can be introduced to existing farmland, offering a non-disruptive, less intensive carbon capture service.
The research published in the journal Nature Plants could have a dramatic applied impact on farming throughout the world. “This study has transformed how we think about managing our croplands for climate, food and soil security,” said Beerling. “It helps move the debate forward for an under-researched strategy of CO2 removal from the atmosphere – enhanced rock weathering – and highlights supplementary benefits for food and soils.” Through enhanced rock weathering, carbon absorption can be achieved without competing for additional land and water. The crushed rock method also reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides and decreases the cost of food production.
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Farming with crushed silicate rocks offers a simple but powerful action to improve environmental health. “The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation,” explained Beerling. “Adopting strategies like this new research that actively remove CO2 from it can have a massive impact and be adapted very quickly.”
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