Last updated February 18, 2019 at 1:51 pm
The first field trials using fungi to reduce carbon in the atmosphere are underway in New South Wales.
As carbon dioxide emissions increase in our atmosphere, scientists around the world are looking at solutions such as carbon sequestration. This process captures carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere for long-term storage.
A group of Australian farmers are working with scientists 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 in the soil. At the same time, by capturing carbon, farmers are able to help contribute to addressing the problem of increasing greenhouse gases, climate change and global warming – the very issues that are broader concerns for farmers worldwide.
Farmers Mick Wettenhall and Jack Farthing have completed planting extensive trials using a newly isolated fungi species for mass carbon sequestration on their mixed livestock and grains properties in NSW.
The particular fungi was originally isolated in soils around the Sydney Basin and trialled in laboratory and glasshouse research by a team from the University of Sydney.
That research has now evolved into the first field tests.
The process starts with inoculating the seed with the specific fungi. Once inoculated, the seed is added to a planter for later sowing in the field. The researchers claim that, once the process is increased in scale, the approach could potentially draw gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere.
SoilCQuest, the not-for-profit group trailing the new microbial technology, hopes it could both increase agricultural productivity and be a viable long-term carbon capture strategy. The group was featured in the 2018 award-winning documentary, Grassroots.
“Soil microbiology has historically been a largely underrated area of science. 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,” says Guy Webb from SoilCQuest.
“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”.
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. We simply must develop reliable and adoptable technologies to do this for our industry to move forward into the future.”