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Adding crushed rocks to farm soils can accelerate carbon sequestration and boost productivity according to scientists attending Cereals for the first time in 2023.    

Calcium and magnesium-rich silicate rocks ground into small particles of less than 2mm have been found to accelerate natural carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration, and potentially improve crop production and soil health.

However, the efficacy of the process, the co-benefits to crops and soils, and field safety data for this new technology has never before been tested in the UK.   

The Enhanced Rock Weathering – Greenhouse Gas Removal (ERW-GGR) Demonstrator programme will be the first to provide an integrated, whole-system assessment of the scientific, societal, and scalability opportunities for ERW deployment in UK agriculture. 

With the potential to remove up to 45% of the UK's GGR net-zero target, it will be implemented on arable land and grassland that constitute 74% of the UK's utilised agricultural area, approximately 13 million hectares.

This innovative approach not only helps in achieving emissions reductions but also enhances soil productivity, replenishes soils with plant-essential mineral nutrients, increases crop resistance to pests and pathogens through greater silica uptake, and minimises soil nitrous oxide emissions.

"The goal is to transform this GGR technology into standard agricultural practices. This Demonstrator will pave the way for an exciting cross-disciplinary collaborative programme and shape the development of ERW-GGR in the UK," said the Project Lead, David Beerling of the University of Sheffield.

The project will be developed across three flagship field sites: Rothamsted Research's arable research facility in Harpenden and North Wyke grassland experimental platform in Devon, and the advanced Plynlimon Experimental Catchments in mid-Wales.

The ERW Demonstrator is not just a technological initiative. It is a comprehensive programme that integrates natural and social sciences, ensuring a balanced approach to addressing environmental benefits and public perceptions. Erin Roberts, a social scientist at Cardiff University who will be available at the Rothamsted stand to discuss the project, said that “the project aims to understand how a social license for ERW's large-scale operation in UK agriculture might be developed”.

"The ERW Demonstrator is a giant leap towards our net-zero carbon emissions target," said the arable site lead, Rothamsted’s Steve McGrath, who will also be on-site at Thoresby. "We believe that ERW's implementation across UK agriculture, combined with its potential co-benefits, will significantly contribute to the fight against climate change."

The Rothamsted stand is at 306 on the Cereals site.

Contacts

Prof. Steve McGrath

Soil and Plant Scientist

ABOUT ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH

Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/; Twitter @Rothamsted 1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

ABOUT BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

ABOUT LAT

The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.