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11-12 June 2024

Bygrave Woods

Newnham SG7 5JX

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01 Jun 2023

Adding rock dust to fields could absorb 45% of CO2 needed to meet net-zero targets

Rock dust being applied to a field
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.

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