Enhanced rock weathering involves adding minute rock grains to cropland soils which dissolve chemically taking up carbon dioxide and releasing plant essential nutrients. Unlike other carbon removal strategies enhanced rock weathering doesn’t compete for land used to grow food or increase the demand for freshwater. Other potential benefits include reducing the use of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, lowering the cost of food production and increasing farm profitability.
The pioneering research by scientists at the University of Sheffield together with international colleagues suggests that adding fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands could capture CO2 and give increased protection from pests and diseases while restoring soil structure and fertility.
Professor David Beerling, Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield and lead author of the research, said: “Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects, but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon.
“This study could transform how we think about managing our croplands for climate, food and soil security. 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.
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