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May fungi be a weapon to battle climate change?

May fungi be a weapon to battle climate change?

Agriculture usually involves taking something off or out of the land and promoting it, but agronomist Man Webb wants to set aside a commodity into the soil and leave it there.

Key aspects:

  • Soil Carbon Co is exploring the potential of microbes to sequester carbon in agricultural soils
  • The company has developed a cut seed inoculum that it says can increase soil carbon
  • The federal authorities has dedicated funding to increase the viability of carbon farming

“It be always a battle for farmers to maintain soil carbon and over the total cropping belt worldwide we’ve misplaced about 60 per cent of our soil organic carbon out of our cropping soils,” Mr Webb said.

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That challenge impressed him on a decade-lengthy mission to salvage a answer that will tackle two complications at as soon as.

“If we can draw carbon out of the atmosphere, and trap it within the soil, which increases soil health, we’re doing something about climate change mitigation at the same time,” he said.

Woman inspecting petri dish of fungi.

Chief product officer Tegan Nock says the inoculum will give farmers a tool “to shift the dial on carbon”.(

ABC Landline: Luke Wong


Constructing a answer

In 2019, Mr Webb co-founded Soil Carbon Co, a start-up that has attracted more than $10 million in private and authorities funding.

The company is exploring if microbes can store stable carbon in soil to enhance the arena’s agricultural paddocks as giant carbon dioxide sinks.

At Soil Carbon Co’s research centre in Orange, central-western NSW, chief product officer and co-founder Tegan Nock leads a team of scientists researching a team of fungi called dark septate endophytes.

They have sifted by means of a library of 1,500 microbes to salvage the ones best suited to carbon sequestration.

Array of petri dishes containing microbes.

The scientists have serene a library of 1,500 microbe specimens for their soil carbon research.(

ABC Landline: Luke Wong


The company has developed a fungal treatment, or inoculum, that when applied to cut seeds, builds carbon as stable sugars around the roots of plants, Ms Nock said.

She said the product was a tool that would assist the agricultural trade to meet future carbon targets.

Man measuring crop plant with ruler.

Soil Carbon Co is trialling its fungal inoculum on cut plants together with wheat, barley and canola.(

ABC Landline: Luke Wong


Ms Nock said area trials on plants had returned sure results, recording an average 7 per cent yield increase and a 2.6-tonne increase in tradable carbon per hectare.

She said the fungal inoculum was able to assemble the varieties of stable soil carbon that may perhaps stay within the flooring for a entire lot and even thousands of years.

“It be something that’s really heartening to check up on when it comes to that carry out to be able to no longer moral increase carbon that’s tradable, but really stable carbon to give that certainty on that trade,” she said.

Maturing carbon market

Farm manager Cast off Atkinson is trialling the inoculum on a canola cut at nearby Canowindra.

He’s enthusiastic about its potential dual benefits for landholders.

“I mediate this is a great alternative to are attempting and expend farmers … to set aside carbon within the soil that goes to be there ceaselessly in a day, and assist the ambiance along the way and bag paid for it,” Mr Atkinson said.

A woman stands smiling in front of a paddock.

NSW DPI soil carbon researcher Dr Susan Orgill says the carbon trading market is maturing.(

ABC Landline: Luke Wong


Soil carbon researcher Susan Orgill of the NSW Department of Primary Industries said there was growing curiosity in carbon sequestering biotechnologies.

“It be a really spirited and promising part of our soil carbon science,” Dr Orgill said.

“We all know that in low disturbance agriculture, while fungi may perhaps simplest be say 10 per cent of the total microbial biomass, they’re guilty for between 35 and 75 per cent of all carbon that’s sequestered.”

While soil carbon projects make up 14 per cent of projects registered beneath the Emissions Discount Fund, she said momentum was constructing.

Woman standing next to drill rig inspecting soil sample in crop field.

The federal authorities has dedicated funding towards reducing the mark of soil carbon measurement.(

ABC Landline: Luke Wong


Increasing carbon farming viability

The carbon market is estimated to be price $40 billion to the land sector by 2050.

In the this year’s funds, the federal authorities dedicated almost $200 million to a National Soil Strategy.

This funding comprises a scheme to pay rebates to farmers who share their soil data, and funding in innovations to carve the mark of soil carbon measuring by 90 per cent.

Mr Webb said increasing the financial viability of carbon farming would assist more producers enter the trading market.

“As rapidly as there may be money within the game, I mediate farmers will adopt it a lot,” Mr Webb said.

A gloved hand holding canola seeds.

The soil carbon fungal inoculum is applied to cut seeds before planting.(

ABC Landline: Luke Wong


Ultimately, he said widespread adoption of carbon farming would benefit all americans, no longer moral those working on the land.

“You can be moral in it to bag a better cut and better soils, but it be for all and all and sundry.”

Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landline this Sunday at 12: 30pm or on iview.

May fungi be a weapon to battle climate change?