Plants are Great at Storing CO2. These Scientists Aim to Make Them Even Better.
Many strategies aimed at mitigating global warming involve huge shifts in human behavior: stop burning coal for electricity, stop driving gas-powered cars, stop destroying rainforests. These are all necessary — and all involve complex political, cultural and socio-economic hurdles for humans. But what if we could also change the behavior of a far more pliant group of organisms, those that consume the carbon dioxide we emit? It’s a demand-side approach to reducing the threat of climate change, and lately it’s been gaining some extra research steam: capturing and storing that excess carbon by boosting the capacity of nature’s own carbon-storing technology, plants.
The Land Institute, a sustainable agriculture organization in Salina, Kansas, is home to one such study. Scientists there have developed a new grain called Kernza, a perennial plant bred from an ancestor of wheat. Kernza’s dense roots extend 10 feet (3 meters) into the soil, locking away carbon while also helping the plant cope with drought by accessing water deeper underground.