Researchers have figured out how to create genetic plants to grow deeper roots, potentially improving carbon storage, drought resistance, and flood protection. This research is a part of Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative which allows plants to capture from the atmosphere and then store the carbon into the ground.
When a plant is able to grow a deeper root system, it allows them to store carbon much deeper in the ground under more suitable soil. Researchers have known that plant hormone auxin is responsible for the growth of its roots but were unaware of how it affected the root system.
At the time when plants grow, they tend to store carbohydrates that are difficult to break down by soil microbes, a process which is able to send carbon back into the atmosphere. Harnessing plant initiative is working to store as much as carbon in the molecule suberin. Found in plants root, suberin is resistant to decomposition. Growing deep roots system also means that there is minimal chance of carbon getting back into the atmosphere.
Lead author Wolfgang Busch said, “The idea is not to store more carbon but to store carbon in parts of the soil where the carbon is more stable,”
With the help of this research, not only plants can help slow down climate change, but also they might be able to protect themselves against harsh weather conditions. The scientists are planning to use the new gene on other plants soon, in order to help them retain more carbon.