Microbe mediated carbon sequestration is one of the most important scientific endeavours of the 21st century. It promises an elegant solution for two of our greatest challenges today: the decrease of fertility and resilience in the world's agricultural soils and climate change induced by the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.
A Pathway From Sky to Soil
Compared with other carbon sequestration mechanisms, plant driven microbial processes are by far the most efficient way of capturing carbon, as there is no requirement for additional equipment, land or energy for the sequestration process.
Farming for Soil Health
Current methods of agricultural soil management can dramatically influence soil organic carbon (SOC) but with unpredictable outcomes. This is mainly due to varied rates of decomposition and respiration of a substantial portion of root exudate and soil material releasing it back to the atmosphere as CO2.
Supporting The Crops
Endophytes are microbes that live symbiotically within plant tissue for at least part of their life cycle. Groups of these endophytic microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen‐fixing bacteria, have long been known to benefit plant growth. Other endophytes residing within plant tissues have been shown to increase fertility, promote plant growth and give protection against stresses such as disease, drought and temperature extremes.
Long-term Stable Carbon Storage
Some microbes, for example melanised endophytic fungi, feed on the plant root exudate which contains labile carbon compounds and produce melanin. This is a more stable polyaromatic carbon compound that is resistant to hydrolysis, being broken down by reaction with water, in the soil. In addition, it has been shown that this carbon is deposited in tiny compressed balls of soil called soil micro aggregate. These micro-aggregates provide an anaerobic home where carbon can be safely stored long term.
The application of associations of microbial organisms including melanised endophytic fungi, is an efficient method of increasing natural carbon deposits in soil. Our prior research has clearly displayed the potential that these fungi have to increase carbon in soil. In a fungal-bacterial consortia, melanising fungi can be grouped together with other microbes, to create plant benefits and synergy with other carbon compounds such as root-derived lignin, and suberins that are also resistant to decomposition. Creating long-term stable increase in soil organic carbon drawn down from atmospheric CO2.