With agriculture being responsible for nearly 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions, which makes the sector the subject of growing interest for participants, researchers and policy makers in terms of finding solutions like rock dust, that can reduce its carbon footprint.
One such solution may have been discovered by scientists from the Working Lands Innovation Center. It’s one that will not only help tackle climate change and meet net-zero emission goals by 2050, but will also prove profitable for farmers.
Studies across different countries, including Canada, Australia and the UK are demonstrating the benefits of spreading basalt dust on cornfields, sugarcane, soybean, hemp and other fields. Namely, the crushed rocks have proven to sequester carbon dioxide from the air via a process known as enhanced weathering.
According to science, rocks have the natural ability to absorb as much as 1 billion tons or a gigaton of CO2 per year from the atmosphere. And when rock dust is distributed over agricultural lands, it accelerates the sequestration process, locking up the CO2 for millennia in the soil.
It has been estimated that if this process were to be applied on a global scale, it could remove between 2 and 4 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the air annually, which amounts to 34-68% of agriculture’s annual share of greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, the process would not require any additional equipment, as it can be facilitated using the fertilizer-spreading gear that farmer already have at hand.
In fact, due to the rock dust’s potential to affect the nitrogen cycle, farmers may even have to apply less and therefore save on nitrogen fertilizer, which, in turn, may reduce nutrient pollution. And with studies showing consistent yield increases, the process has every chance of even becoming profitable.
Another possible income stream may come about from “carbon farming”, if and once such a market comes into existence.