A soil additive made using fungi can help farmers improve crops and sequester more carbon
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Spotted: A carbon sink is a natural system, like a forest or ocean, that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For example, the world’s oceans absorb about 31 per cent of the CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. But there is an often-overlooked carbon sink right under our feet — mycorrhizae in agricultural soils.
Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that grow in association with plant roots. As plants photosynthesise, carbon dioxide is converted into organic carbon, 20 per cent of which is passed through the plant’s roots to mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Now, startup Groundwork BioAg has developed a mycorrhizal-based inoculant called Rootella that helps plants absorb water and soil nutrients, such as those found in fertilisers and compost.
The additive is made using naturally occurring fungi that become depleted in the soil from over-tilling and the use of commercial fertilisers. Replacing it not only supports plant resilience but increases yield and reduces the need for phosphorus – a nutrient used in fertilisers that contributes to water pollution. The use of mycorrhiza additives can also improve the sequestration capacity of agricultural soils.
Since its founding, Groundwork BioAg has established commercial operations across most of the world’s major agricultural markets, including the United States, Brazil, India, and Europe. In 2022, the company opened a representative office in China, which has approximately 127 million hectares of harvested farm cropland.
Fertilisers are a huge source of both carbon and pollution, so it is no wonder that Springwise has spotted a wide variety of innovations in the database aimed at finding a more sustainable way to grow crops. These include using microorganisms to fight plant diseases and improving the efficiency of fertilisers so they can be used more sparingly.
Written By: Lisa Magloff