Adding rock dust to soil could absorb 45% CO2

It could stop 30m tonnes of carbon from reaching the atmosphere each year, scientists claim

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Adding rock dust to agricultural soils throughout the UK could remove up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year – or 45% of the amount needed to hit net zero.

That’s according to research by scientists at the University of Sheffield, which claims the deployment would be simple given it involves infrastructure that already exists and would be far cheaper than carbon capture and storage.

The process would reverse soil acidification, which limits yields, requires more fertiliser and produces more nitrous oxide emissions.

The scientists involved do caveat this approach with the fact that mining for basalt rock dust would need to be done in a respectful way to local communities – but that it would also generate employment.

They claim that enhanced rock weathering could have a key role to play in the UK achieving net zero by 2050 and has been overlooked by many important bodies in the sector due to the need for more research.

Senior author Professor David Beerling said: “Our analysis highlights the potential of UK agriculture to deliver substantial carbon drawdown by transitioning to managing arable farms with rock dust, with added benefits for soil health and food security.”