FW: High CO2 Stimulates Soil-Building "Glue" (fwd)

Lawrence F. London, Jr. london at metalab.unc.edu
Wed Aug 11 22:11:40 EDT 1999

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 14:33:36 -0700
From: Lon J. Rombough <lonrom at hevanet.com>
To: SANET <sanet-mg at ces.ncsu.edu>,
     AGRISYNERGY <AGRISYNERGY at maelstrom.stjohns.edu>,
     Organic Gardening Discussion List <OGL at lsv.uky.edu>
Subject: FW: High CO2 Stimulates Soil-Building "Glue"

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From: "ARS News Service" <isnv at ars-grin.gov>
To: "ARS News List" <ars-news at ars-grin.gov>
Subject: High CO2 Stimulates Soil-Building "Glue"
Date: Wed, Aug 11, 1999, 11:03 AM

High CO2 Stimulates Soil-Building "Glue"

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Don Comis, (301) 504-1625, dcomis at asrr.arsusda.gov
August 12, 1999

In the first examination of the effects of high atmospheric carbon dioxide
levels on soil structure, an Agricultural Research Service scientist and
cooperators found that the gas stimulates soil-dwelling fungi to produce
more of a unique protein that greatly amplifies a soil's ability to store

The study's results are described in a letter published in the August 12
issue of Nature magazine. One of the letter's authors, ARS soil scientist
Sara F. Wright, previously discovered the protein and named it glomalin. She
suspects it may be the primary glue that holds soil together. Now it appears
that a little of this glue goes a long way toward helping soils keep carbon
out of the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas contributing to possible global warming.

The lead author, Matthias C. Rillig, is with the Carnegie Institution of
Washington at Stanford, Calif., as is Christopher B. Field. The fourth
author, Michael F. Allen, is with the University of California at Riverside.
The researchers studied three different ecosystems: two grasslands in
northern California and chaparral in southern California. In all three, they
found that as more carbon dioxide was pumped into open-top chambers placed
over grassland plants growing outdoors, or in a greenhouse built around
shrubs, glomalin levels rose, along with soil stability.

The high carbon dioxide levels in the air increase the amount of carbon
taken in by plant roots. That gives the fungi more food and enables them to
produce more glomalin. The glomalin glues soil particles together and helps
them clump, improving soil structure. This eases the passage of air and
water through soil, boosting plant yields. It also helps soil resist erosion
and hold in soil carbon -- valuable organic matter that holds nutrients to
recycle slowly to plants.

Farmers can increase glomalin levels further by avoiding plowing and by
growing cover crops year-round if feasible. Fungi need live roots to produce

Scientific contact: Sara F. Wright, ARS Soil Microbial Systems Laboratory,
Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8156, fax 504-8370,
swright at asrr.arsusda.gov.
This item is one of the news releases and story leads that ARS Information
distributes on weekdays to fax and e-mail subscribers. You can also get the
latest ARS news on the World Wide Web at
* Feedback and questions to ARS News Service via e-mail: isnv at ars-grin.gov.
* ARS Information Staff, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD
20705- 5128, (301) 504-1617, fax 504-1648.

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