[permaculture] Farmers start field trial for carbon capture with fungi | Cosmos
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Mon Dec 24 20:49:37 EST 2018
News <https://cosmosmagazine.com/sections/news> Climate
<https://cosmosmagazine.com/topics/climate> 19 December 2018
Farmers start field trial for carbon capture with fungi
The first field trials using fungi to reduce carbon in the atmosphere are
under way in Australia. Kelly Wong reports.
Researcher Guy Webb from SoilQuest has fun with fungi, all in the name of
As carbon dioxide emissions increase in the atmosphere, scientists around
the world are looking at solutions such as carbon sequestration. This
process captures carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere for
A group of Australian farmers is working with researchers to harness the
power of fungi in soils. In the dry conditions of the Australian landscape,
increasing soil carbon levels can help with water retention, boosting
conditions for agriculture.
At the same time, by capturing carbon farmers can help contribute to
addressing the problem of increasing greenhouse gases, climate change and
Farmers Mick Wettenhall and Jack Farthing have completed planting extensive
trial plots using newly isolated fungi for mass carbon sequestration on
their mixed livestock and grains properties at their respective farms in
Trangie and Forbes, both in New South Wales.
The fungi were originally isolated in soils around the Sydney Basin and
trialled in laboratory and glasshouse research by a team led by Peter McGee
from the University of Sydney, Australia.
The results, reported in a paper <https://www.publish.csiro.au/sr/SR16006>
published in the journal *Soil Research*, showed that particular strains of
melanised endophytic fungi (MEF) have the potential to increase levels of
organic carbon in controlled soil laboratory experiments.
MEFs, also known as dark septate endophytes, are a broad group of
melanin-producing species that live within plants. The melanin produced by
the fungi is a stable form of carbon which does not break down as easily as
linear carbon compounds.
When integrated into soil the effect is two-fold. It increases soil carbon
levels and contributes towards long-term carbon storage.
The laboratory research has now progressed into the first field tests.
The Earth is breathing heavily – and that’s a problem
The process starts with inoculating plant seeds with the fungi. The seeds
are then added to a planter for later sowing. The researchers claim that
once the process is increased in scale the approach could potentially draw
gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere.
SoilCQuest <https://www.soilcquest.org.au/>, the not-for-profit
agricultural organisation trailing the new microbial technology, hopes the
fungi could both increase agricultural productivity and be a viable
long-term carbon capture strategy. The research was recently featured in a
2018 award-winning documentary, *Grassroots*
<https://australiascience.tv/vod/grassroots/>, part of Australia’s popular
“Soil microbiology has historically been a largely underrated area of
science,” says the organisation’s Guy Webb.
“Little has been known about the complex ecosystems that live under our
feet, yet of the plants we eat, none exist naturally without the
interaction of tiny organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and nematodes.
“Soil is the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet, managed by the
people with the most to lose from climate change: farmers. We are hoping
that our trials will show that it can be easy and economical for them to
transfer carbon from the air and secure it in their soil.”
Back on the farm, Wettenhall sees the need for rapid adaptation measures.
“The only way we as farmers can currently mitigate our risk against climate
change is by increasing our soil carbon levels,” he says.
“We simply must develop reliable and adoptable technologies to do this for
our industry to move forward into the future.”
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