Innovation That Matters

Microbial soil sequestration is quick, globally scalable and provides huge benefits for growers. | Photo source Loam Bio

A startup uses microbes to boost carbon sequestration

Agriculture & Energy

The decarbonisation company has developed a microbial seed coating that improves the ability of plants to fix carbon in the soil

Spotted: The climate crisis has seen record-breaking levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Potential solutions range from renewable fuels to reforestation. But a growing band of researchers and biotech firms believe that one of the best solutions may be waiting right underfoot – microbes. Companies like Loam Bio (founded in 2019 as Soil Carbon Co.) believe that they can use tailored microbes to turn the world’s soil into a massive carbon sink, while also improving crops.

The company has developed a microbial seed coating that ‘supercharges a plant’s natural ability to store carbon in soil’. Farmers coat the seeds in the solutions before sowing. As the plants grow, they exude sugars into the soil. These are then converted into stable soil carbon by the microbes. This soil carbon is stored in tiny structures called micro-aggregates, which prevents the carbon from being released back into the atmosphere.

The added carbon also benefits plants by increasing soil health and leading to higher yields, boosting farmers’ revenue. Studies conducted by Loam show an increase in soil carbon of up to 17 per cent in a single season – which, if used on a global scale, would equate to drawing down 8 gigatonnes of CO2 each year. Loam CEO and co-founder Guy Hudson believes that, if applied to America’s entire soybean crop, the coating could offset the emissions from the country’s aviation industry.

“Using our naturally-derived products on crops across the globe will give the world the time it needs to adjust to a low carbon economy,” Hudson explains, adding, “Our modelling includes the fact that large proportions of the soil organic carbon we are building will be decomposed and respired back into the atmosphere. The stable remainder still leads to an environmentally significant amount of CO2 removal. Our aim is to increase the storage of carbon to levels higher than what our current agricultural systems are achieving.”

Carbon sequestration is increasingly being seen as a valuable tool in the arsenal of those seeking to slow climate change. And there is no shortage of idea. Innovations seen recently here at Springwise include an artificial leaf that captures carbon dioxide and a technology that makes sequestration cheaper and more efficient

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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