Posted by: Hendra Siry | 6 April, 2010

Crops That Store Carbon `Help’ Reduce Emissions

A country could cut the agriculture sector some slack in the debate on food supplies versus climate change providing certain plants with exceptional carbon storage capabilities are prioritized, students and lecturers heard Thursday. Richard Bush from Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia, said in a seminar in South Jakarta on Thursday that recent research had revealed that certain plants were better able to capture carbon dioxide, thus reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

Some plants, including crops such as wheat and rice, can store carbon in the form of “plant stones”. “Plant stones” are microscopic grains of silica, an element in a plant’s cellular structure, which can store carbon. “Anyone who has chewed on a celery stick will know that crunching sensation, which is in fact the result of a high content of silica,” Richard said.

Thus, as plants accumulate silica for various reasons, they can also accumulate carbon in the form of plant stone carbon, which can be stored for thousands of years instead of being released back into the atmosphere. Richard said that several plants commonly found in the agricultural sector, such as varieties of rice, bamboo and sugar cane, had exceptionally high silica-accumulation rates and could therefore make more plant stones.

By selecting certain varieties of crops with high plant stone production rates, the agriculture sector could play a large role in reducing the rate of carbon dioxide emissions, he added. “The extent of crops in developing and developed nations is very high, so the potential of securing carbon in these crops is very high,” Richard added.

“This *scheme* has the potential for carbon trading, but the real challenge is to come up with solutions that will allow us to still feed our nation,” he said. Fahrizal Hazra, a lecturer from the Bogor University of Agriculture (IPB) said the discovery of crops in mitigating greenhouse effects could help improve the image of agriculture.

“It is claimed that agriculture is one of the contributors of emissions, but it is also a way of feeding the population,” he said, adding the method of selecting crops was just one of the many ways to mitigate climate change. Fahrizal said that he was not entirely convinced of the carbon-capturing mechanism of certain plant varieties. “We will conduct experiments at the university to prove that,” he said. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Copenhagen that by 2020, Indonesia would reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent on its own, or 41 percent combined with financial help from international donors.

Research from the Agriculture Ministry revealed that Indonesia uses 64 million hectares for farming out of 190 million hectares of land. A recent discussion between the ministry and stakeholders in the country’s food industry revealed that by using data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), it could be assumed the current population of 233 million needed 32 million tons of rice, 18 million tons of corn and 3 million tons of soy products. (dis)

Source: The Jakarta Post – February 20, 2010

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