Tackling Climate Change from the Roots Up

Photo by thaths | flickr.com

It appears our tumultuous tug-of-war with greenhouse gases is set to deepen yet. In fact, new research from the University of Manchester suggests that current global agricultural practises are not quite digging to the bottom of the problem.

Indeed, we must tackle it at its very core by working to strengthen the very foundation of the plant unit: the root.

As the innovative study suggests, crops worldwide could be made significantly more drought resistant through selectively breeding them to have deeper roots by at least one metre more into the earth, in order to develop more efficient and self-sustaining nutrient exchange systems; this initiative alone, the study argues, could act to remove up to twice as much CO2 from the environment.

Not only would it work to dramatically reduce global emissions thanks to increased capacity and efficiency in the average plant’s carbon uptake, but it would additionally help to conserve marked amounts of the gem that has become our global freshwater reserve.

In order to understand why this is so, we must first grasp a great paradox that Mother Nature has presented to us. When plants are rooted in shallow soil, water seeps through past these layers and falls well below the roots of the plant, where it becomes unreachable and thereby non-beneficial for vegetation. Over time, areas of shallow soil are the first to become dry, a problem only intensified by the malpractice of overwatering or everyday watering of plants. 

A deeply rooted system, on the other hand, would work to provide the roots with the water and nutrients found in the deep soil, and would therefore require significantly less watering and maintenance due to increased efficiency. If applied in large-scale agricultural practises, such initiatives could make substantial dents to reduce the 70% of total global freshwater we currently use for irrigation, thereby translating into increased crop yields and readily available potable water supply.

If the tragic drought and subsequent famine currently occurring in the Horn of Africa are to teach us any lessons, they should be that each of us is to take a personal responsibility for the wellness of the earth through education and innovation, for example, as we look to future prospects of bioengineered crops to give greater yields and develop more extensive root systems. We at The Starfish call upon and challenge you to plant your seed, and plant it deep!

For guides on how to properly plant a tree and other related resources, please visit Tree Canada