Plant roots store carbon – the bigger the root structures and deeper they go, the more carbon they can capture from the atmosphere. Taken to scale, plants can become a force in the race to remove carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere.
Researchers at the Salk Institute, founded by the creator of the first effective polio vaccine, are working to identify the genes that make plants grow more roots, deeper roots and roots with more suberin – a naturally occuring material in plants that does not decompose over time. Their goal is to develop a new generation of carbon-storing plants that will reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere and bury carbon deep in the soil of croplands. It’s anticipated that these plants will improve soil quality as well, thereby providing economic benefits in the form of increased plant yield and improved food security.