Researchers at the University of Turku have found that carbon sequestration and plant resilience can be increased through key adjustments in agricultural management. The results provide a roadmap for reducing pesticide loads in soils, as well as outlining the first steps towards increasing climate change mitigation while improving crop yield in grasslands.
As the global population continues to grow, so does the demand for food. In response, technology and synthetic agrochemicals are being used to intensify agriculture in an effort to maximize crop yields. In this context, soil characteristics play a crucial role in determining the quality of crops, including their ability to withstand extreme weather conditions and resist insect and disease outbreaks.
One key challenge in the research was to find practical and sustainable ways to improve plant resilience and elevate crop yield while mitigating the carbon (CO2) emissions caused by human activity by enhancing carbon sequestration in the soil.
At the research facilities located at the Ruissalo Botanical Gardens in Turku, the University’s researchers performed two separate experiments. The results of the greenhouse and common garden studies revealed that the frequency of mowing significantly influences pastures. By cutting the plants at a higher level and reducing the mowing frequency, the pasture’s overall yield improved and the plants grew bigger roots, which demonstrates a greater absorption of atmospheric carbon into the underground storage.
The researchers discovered that herbicide residues in soil negatively impact root growth, regardless of the yield harvest’s intensity.
The authors propose additional field studies to extrapolate their findings onto a field scale. Both studies conclude that climate change mitigation via optimizing carbon sequestration and storage in the soil can be achieved by reducing pesticides, which will facilitate root growth and improve plant resilience.
All over the world, cultivated grasslands are used as grazing pasture as well as for growing fodder that is turned into hay and silage. They cover large parts of the world’s agricultural land and have tremendous potential for climate change mitigation through carbon storage.