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Source: Forschungszentrum JulichJülich / Bonn, October 27, 2020 – The soil has the ability to bind large amounts of carbon in the long term. An international team of researchers with the participation of Forschungszentrum Jülich is now calling for this potential to be used effectively. The experts estimate that this could reduce the increase in the greenhouse gas CO2 in the atmosphere by a third. At the same time, agricultural yields would also increase significantly in many regions. In a current publication they present a strategy with which these goals can be achieved. It appears in the journal Nature Communications.

The climate summit in Paris in 2015 also marked the birth of the so-called “4 per 1,000” initiative. Your name stands for a connection that has not received enough attention in climate research and politics: year after year, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases by more than four billion tons due to the climate gas CO2, which is produced by humans. If these four billion tons were instead bound in the earth’s soils (and thus the greenhouse effect completely stopped), the amount of carbon contained in the soil would grow by only 0.4 percent annually (i.e. 4 in 1,000). In other words: soils are already a gigantic carbon store. So why not simply sink the excess CO2 into it as an additional tiny amount? The increased input of carbon into the soil could slow down climate change and at the same time increase harvest yields, emphasizes the international research team. Copyright: Frank Luerweg / University of Bonn In fact, experts are experts today convinced that this strategy could significantly slow down climate change. “0.4 percent additional carbon input is a bit too optimistic,” explains Prof. Wulf Amelung, head of the Jülich Institute for Agrosphere Research and the Soil Science Department at the University of Bonn. “A third of that is probably achievable.” Still, hardly anything has changed since 2015. Amelung would therefore like to bring the topic back on the agenda together with colleagues from Europe, the USA, Australia and China. In the current issue of the journal “Nature Communications” they outline a strategy with which the potential of soils in the fight against climate change could be used effectively. Amelung is together with his French colleague Prof. Dr. Abad Chabbi in charge of the initiative; In Germany, the Technical University of Munich was also involved. There are a number of simple measures to increase the amount of carbon in the soil, such as mulching (i.e. covering the soil with crop residues) or adding biochar. The most important method, however, is to increase the vegetation (and thus the crop yield): by liming acidic soils, by fertilizing according to needs, by skillful irrigation. “The more that grows on the soil, the better its roots are,” explains Amelung. “And roots with their widely branched braids made of organic material store a lot of carbon.” Conversely, the organic matter contains essential nutrients for plant growth and thus promotes crop yield. “Ultimately, our strategy therefore addresses two important goals: climate protection and food security.” However, the global implementation of the ambitious plan is not that simple: the quality and properties of the soils at different locations are too different, and the available cultivation technologies are too dissimilar. “In order to increase the carbon input, locally adapted measures are necessary – we need completely different strategies in the rice-growing areas of Asia than in a grain field in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania,” emphasizes Amelung. In addition, many carbon storage measures are particularly effective when soils have been partially degraded due to long-term overuse and have lost a lot of carbon. “From a cost-benefit perspective, it certainly makes the most sense to start on such areas – also because the harvest increases are likely to be greatest there,” explains the soil scientist. Unfortunately, knowledge of the condition of the soil is very patchy. The scientists therefore recommend the establishment of databases that record the condition of the areas around the globe in very small parts, as well as the equally small-scale modeling of possible harvest profits and the necessary fertilizer use. In addition, it must be ensured that there is not just a redistribution of the carbon input: for example, by laboriously moving organic material from one farm to another area and now missing it at the place of origin. Original publication: W. Amelung, D. Bossio, W. de Vries, I. Kögel-Knabner, J. Lehmann, R. Amundson, R. Bol, C. Collins, R. Lal, J. Leifeld, B. Minasny, G. Pan, K Paustian, C. Rumpel, J. Sanderman, JW van Groenigen, S. Mooney, B. van Wesemael, M. Wander and A. Chabbi: Towards a global-scale soil climate mitigation strategy; Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-18887-7 Institute for Bio- and Geosciences, Agrosphere Area (IBG-3) Contact: Prof. Dr. Wulf AmelungInstitute for Bio- and Geosciences, Agrosphere (IBG-3) Tel .: 02461 61-4463E-Mail: w.amelung@fz-juelich.dePress contact: Erhard Zeiss, Press OfficerTel. 02461 61-1841 Email: e.zeiss@fz-juelich.de

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