Navigation Links
Crop breeding could 'slash CO2 levels'

Writing in the journal Annals of Botany, Professor Douglas Kell argues that developing crops that produce roots more deeply in the ground could harvest more carbon from the air, and make crops more drought resistant, while dramatically reducing carbon levels.

In principle, any crops could be treated in this way, giving more productive yields while also being better for the environment.

Although the amount of carbon presently sequestered in the soil in the natural environment and using existing crops and grasses has been known for some time, Professor Kell's new analysis is the first to reveal the benefits to the environment that might come from breeding novel crops with root traits designed to enhance carbon sequestration.

Professor Kell, Professor of Bioanalytical Science at the University as well as Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has also devised a carbon calculator that can show the potential benefits of crops that burrow more deeply in the ground.

With this, he has calculated that depending on the time it takes them to break down breeding crops that could cover present cropland areas but that had roots a metre deeper in the soil could double the amount of carbon captured from the environment. This could be a significant weapon in the fight against climate change.

The soil represents a reservoir that contains at least twice as much carbon as does the atmosphere, yet mainly just the above-ground plant biomass is harvested in agriculture, and plant photosynthesis represents the effective origin of the overwhelming bulk of soil carbon.

Breeding crop plants with deeper and bushy root ecosystems could simultaneously improve both the soil structure and its steady-state carbon, water and nutrient retention, as well as sustainable plant yields.

Professor Kell argues that widespread changes in agricultural practice are needed, in an environment in which edible crop yields also need to increase substantially and sustainably, and where transport fuels and organic chemicals will need to come from modern (rather than fossil) photosynthesis.

It is known that massive CO2 reductions in the atmosphere over geological time have happened because of the rise of deep-rooted trees and flowering plants.

Most cultivated agricultural crops have root depths that do not extend much beyond one metre. Doubling this, Professor Kell argues, would dramatically reduce CO2 levels.

Existing studies, which have doubted the benefits of deep roots in carbon sequestration, do not make soil measurements much below a metre, and the kinds of root depths proposed by Professor Kell would more than double that.

He said: "This doubling of root biomass from a nominal 1m to a nominal 2m is really the key issue, together with the longevity of the roots and carbon they secrete and sequester below-ground.

"What matters is not so much what is happening now as what might be achieved with suitable breeding of plants with deep and reasonably long-lived roots. Many such plants exist, but have not been bred for agriculture.

"In addition to the simple carbon sequestration that this breeding could imply possibly double that of common annual grain crops such plants seem to mobilise and retain nutrients and water very effectively over extended periods, thus providing resistance to drought, flooding and other challenges we shall face from climate change.

"While there is a way to go before such crops might have, for example, the grain yields of present day cereals, their breeding and deployment seems a very promising avenue for sustainable agriculture."


Contact: Daniel Cochlin
University of Manchester

Related biology news :

1. Dissecting the genomes of crop plants to improve breeding potential
2. Bizarre insect inbreeding signals an end to males: News tips from the American Naturalist
3. Lost bats found breeding on Scilly
4. Plant breeding is being transformed by advances in genomics and computing
5. Kittiwakes trans-Atlantic winter odyssey linked to breeding success
6. University of Illinois research makes plant breeding easier
7. To prevent inbreeding, flowering plants have evolved multiple genes, research reveals
8. Solar panels can attract breeding water insects
9. Neanderthal genome yields insights into human evolution and evidence of interbreeding
10. Health benefits of wheat can be improved by plant breeding
11. Breeding orchid species creates a new perfume
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... ANN ARBOR, Mich. , Oct. 29, 2015 ... with Eurofins Genomics for U.S. distribution of its ... DNA-seq kit and Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq ... DNA to enable the preparation of NGS libraries ... in plasma for diagnostic and prognostic applications in ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... NEW YORK , Oct. 27, 2015 ... the major issues of concern for various industry verticals ... This is due to the growing demand for secure ... practices in various ,sectors, such as hacking of bank ... concerns for electronic equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... LAS VEGAS , Oct. 26, 2015 ... in modern authentication and a founding member of the ... its latest version of the Nok Nok™ S3 Authentication ... standards-based authentication that supports existing and emerging methods of ... ideal for organizations deploying customer-facing applications that require Internet ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced ... 29, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Israel time, at ... 98 Yigal Allon Street, 36 th Floor, Tel Aviv, ... Eric Paneth and Izhak Tamir to the Board of ... as external directors; , approval of an amendment to certain terms ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Twist Bioscience, a ... Emily Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience chief executive officer, ... Conference on December 1, 2015 at 3:10 p.m. ... York City. --> ... . Twist Bioscience is on Twitter. Sign up ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Switzerland (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... InSphero ... organotypic 3D cell culture models, has promoted Melanie Aregger to serve as Chief Operating ... Ms. Aregger served on the management team and was promoted to Head ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... QC , Nov. 24, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - ProMetic ... "Corporation") announced today that Mr. Pierre Laurin , President ... corporate presentation at the upcoming Piper Jaffray 27 th ... Palace Hotel, on December 1-2, 2015. st ... available for one-on-one meetings throughout the day. The presentation will ...
Breaking Biology Technology: