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Carbon Capture: The Future of Agriculture

— Future Scientists Club

The agricultural industry accounts for 70% of all water consumption on Earth, as well as 44% of all energy consumption worldwide. Studies show that by 2050, our current agricultural practices would have to increase by 70% to feed the growing population. How exactly can we responsibly feed a rapidly growing and warming planet? One possible solution is carbon capture in tandem with indoor farming, which could help create a more sustainable and productive future for agriculture.

It has been known for decades that atmospheric CO₂ stimulates plant growth. On average, doubling the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere today would cause plants to grow 47% larger. This means that increasing CO₂ concentrations in a controlled environment (like a greenhouse) would increase crop yield. If this is done on a large scale, it could provide more food for our growing population. A researcher from Southwestern University found similar results using a different system called free-air carbon dioxide enrichment, in which pipes are placed around plants in an outdoor system to emit CO₂–enriched air for the plants. It seemed like an ingenious idea, but he did encounter one problem: plants need very specific levels of nutrients in the soil in order for an increase in CO₂ to be beneficial.

This is where indoor farming might be useful. In many indoor farms, the nutrients delivered to the plants are controlled and can be adjusted to best fit their needs. Researchers from Jiangsu University, China looked into one specific indoor farming system, aeroponics, in which nutrients are delivered to the roots of plants through a nutrient mist. By adjusting the mist, any limitations that the lack of nutrients would have on plant growth in a traditional soil setting can be mitigated. Such a system could work effectively alongside carbon capture.

With the climate crisis worsening by the day, and the world’s population growing at an unprecedented rate, current farming practices must adapt. Although further research is needed to test and perfect the idea, an effective combination of carbon capture and indoor farming is a promising solution.


References

Lakhiar, I. A., Gao, J., Syed, T. N., Chandio, F. A., & Buttar, N. A. (2018, May 30). Modern plant cultivation technologies in agriculture under controlled environment: a review on aeroponics. Journal of Plant Interactions, 13(1), 338-352. Taylor & Francis Online. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17429145.2018.1472308

Poorter, H., & Perez-Soba, M. (2002). Plant Growth at Elevated CO2. In H. A. Mooney, J. G. Canadell, & T. Munn (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change (Vol. 2, pp. 489-496). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Taub, D. R. (2010). Effects of Rising Atmospheric Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide on Plants. Nature Education Knowledge. https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/effects-of-rising-atmospheric-concentrations-of-carbon-13254108/

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2018, March 13). Energy consumption in agriculture increased in 2016, driven mainly by diesel and fertilizer use. Economic Research Service. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/gallery/chart-detail/?chartId=87964 

Water in Agriculture. The World Bank. (2022, October 5). https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water-in-agriculture 

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