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Joao Peixe

Joao Peixe

Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com

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What Do Slave Ships Have To Do with Carbon Capture?

Grass brought to South America in the bedding of slave ships 500 years ago could be the answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on agricultural land, new research shows.

Agricultural land is responsible for around 14% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, making it a bigger violator than modern transport, but new research shows that a tropical grass used as livestock feed could be further engineered to fight global warming.

The tropical grass, called Brachiaria humidicola, inhibits the release of nitrous oxide, which has a more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide or methane. Its chemicals enable the plant to bind nitrogen into the soil, thus making it more productive.

Related article: Obama’s Latest Comments Cast Even More Doubt on Keystone XL Approval

Researchers are now breeding different strains of the plant to increase these nitrogen-inhibiting properties.

The grass can also reduce nitrate pollution of waterways and show significant potential for carbon capture. It also holds the promise of higher productivity and better economy through the need for less fertilizer.

Researcher Dr. Michael Peters from the Cali, Columbia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) says the ultimate goal is to modify rice plants to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from wet paddy fields by up to 50%.

"We are working to identify the genes for biological nitrification inhibition and transfer that to other crops. We assume that at least half of the gases can be saved in livestock production in tropical environments”.

CIAT is working with Dow AgroSciences, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, to get seeds onto the market within the next three to five years.

Related article: Why the Advanced Biofuel Industry is Struggling

The grass originated in sub-Saharan Africa, but is widely grown on pastures in Brazil and Colombia. However, it is still not clear how the use of this tropical grass could be applied on a global scale as the plant does not grow well in temperate climates.

Another potential downsides is that increased productivity could provide an additional economic incentive for the clearance of forests, and the proposed expansion of brachiaria pastureland poses a challenge to biodiversity.

However, scientists say those issues could be resolved along the way and that for now, the benefits outweigh the risks.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com




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  • Rseg on September 19 2013 said:
    Have you not read the report just released by the 47 climate scientists. Report states that temperatures have not increased one iota in the last 15 years and the ice caps have actully increased 40% to 60% in the last two years. The report used most of the same data that the UN used in their politized report. If the politicians could just look at the scientific facts and be honest with the public this country could get back to business and create jobs again. I'm surprised that the global warming crowd is still perpetuating this and journalist like you are still printing these articles when the facts just are not there. I know global warming is big goverment buisness. They want carbon revenues and want to control private sectors under the guise of "protecting the environment" but the game is now up. all of us in the public can find and understand "scientific fact" when we see it.

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