Enhanced weathering in the US Corn Belt delivers carbon removal with agronomic benefits

David J. Beerling, Dimitar Z. Epihov, Ilsa B. Kantola, Michael D. Masters, Tom Reershemius, Noah J. Planavsky, Christopher T. Reinhard, Jacob S. Jordan, Sarah J. Thorne, James Weber, Maria Val Martin, Robert P. Freckleton, Sue E. Hartley, Rachael H. James, Christopher R. Pearce, Evan H. DeLucia, Steven A. Banwart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Terrestrial enhanced weathering (EW) of silicate rocks, such as crushed basalt, on farmlands is a promising scalable atmospheric carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategy that urgently requires performance assessment with commercial farming practices. We report findings from a large-scale replicated EW field trial across a typical maize-soybean rotation on an experimental farm in the heart of the United Sates Corn Belt over 4 y (2016 to 2020). We show an average combined loss of major cations (Ca2+ and Mg2+) from crushed basalt applied each fall over 4 y (50 t ha−1 y−1) gave a conservative time-integrated cumulative CDR potential of 10.5 ± 3.8 t CO2 ha−1. Maize and soybean yields increased significantly (P lt; 0.05) by 12 to 16 decreased soil acidification, and upregulation of root nutrient transport genes. Yield enhancements with EW were achieved with significantly (P lt; 0.05) increased key micro- and macronutrient concentrations (including potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc), thus improving or maintaining crop nutritional status. We observed no significant increase in the content of trace metals in grains of maize or soybean or soil exchangeable pools relative to controls. Our findings suggest that widespread adoption of EW across farming sectors has the potential to contribute significantly to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goals while simultaneously improving food and soil security.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2319436121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume121
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 27 2024

Keywords

  • agricultural production
  • soil geochemistry
  • enhanced weathering
  • carbon removal

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