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High hopes for strong carbon storage potential of biomass crops

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  • 3 min read

There are optimistic expectations for the strong carbon storage potential of biomass crops such as Miscanthus in a NIAB-led carbon study.

The Centre for High Carbon Capture Cropping (CHCx3) is a four-year, £5.9 million research project with 21 partners, which has already been running for six months. Established to help provide evidence-based recommendations for crops with high carbon capture potential, it’s an industry first, using real data to establish a common framework within the farming industry.

“At the end of the study we aim to have produced the data needed to advise farmers on diversifying their rotations to support increased cropping resilience and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Jasmine Toole, soils technical lead and knowledge exchange co-ordinator for CHCx3.

“Based on previous research, there is a lot of excitement around biomass crops, including Miscanthus and willow, and fibre crops such as hemp and flax,” says Jasmine.

“Miscanthus is perennial, so it can store a lot of carbon over time, and because of the deep root network, the plants have time to develop complex microbial communities and draw down carbon further into the soil, for potentially 20 years or more in the case of Miscanthus,” adds Jasmine.

Established to help UK farmers and growers target net zero in the most efficient way possible, the project aims to help provide evidence-based recommendations to farmers on crops with high carbon capture potential.

Miscanthus specialist, Terravesta, is one of 21 partners in the study, and is working with NIAB to test the soil where Miscanthus crops grow.

Terravesta managing director, Florian Ilias, is enthusiastic about the progress made so far. “We have located Miscanthus crops throughout the UK to take baseline carbon measurements and will continue to sample the soils for the duration of the project.”

The project will also enable new revenue sources for farmers and growers through a carbon marketplace while also supporting enhanced value chains for industries such as textiles and construction.

CHCx3 will run from now through to 2027. It is supported by a consortium of 21 industry and research partners and will be led by NIAB. Funded by Defra under the Farming Futures R&D Fund, ‘Climate Smart Farming’, CHCx3 forms part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

The project aims to provide resources to support the effective uptake and utilisation of crops with high carbon capture potential, with practical outputs such as crop guides, web tools, and apps available to landowners, farmers, and agronomists.

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