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Australian researchers lead soil science breakthrough

Loam Bio and Western Sydney University team up to unearth groundbreaking research: Fungi can improve stable soil carbon storage. 

Loam Bio and leading researchers from the Western Sydney University have today announced results from a pioneering research collaboration demonstrating how fungi can increase soil carbon stocks and their stability (Stuart et al. 2024). This research demonstrates that Loam’s fungi have the potential to increase carbon sequestration in soil and enhance the stability of soil carbon. 

Not all fungi are created equal – some fungal species were shown to be better than others at improving plant performance and stabilising soil carbon. At harvest, specific native fungal seed treatments in the study showed:

  • Up to 9.4% higher levels of carbon at harvest in soil compared to plants without fungi
  • Up to 21% more carbon in soil aggregates at harvest, which could explain the increased stability of soil carbon due to physical protection of carbon from decomposition.
  • Up to 20% more resistant carbon after incubating soil for 135 days post-harvest, which implies that sequestered carbon is less susceptible to being lost overtime. 

Importantly, increasing the stability of soil carbon indicates that sequestered carbon is less likely to be lost in future. 

This innovative study was performed by world-class researchers Dr Emiko K. Stuart, Dr Laura Castañeda-Gómez, Prof. Jeff R. Powell, Dr Wolfram Buss from the Australian National University, and led by Dr Yolima Carrillo from the Western Sydney University’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.

This evidence that native fungi can sequester carbon in soil unlocks opportunities for more farmers to improve their soil health and earn carbon credits. Since 2019, Loam has been developing products that address the problem of too much carbon in the atmosphere and not enough in soils, where it is essential for soil health and agricultural productivity. By independently characterising Loam’s fungal library, researchers at Western Sydney University have demonstrated the potential of non-mycorrhizal fungi for carbon sequestration.

“Combining multiple approaches to assess soil carbon responses, its origin, dynamics and fate in controlled experimental conditions was a powerful strategy to detect and understand the impact of the different fungal species and we are looking forward to continuing to investigate the mechanisms that drive the positive responses observed,” Dr Carrillo said.

“In our pursuit of enhancing stable soil carbon sequestration, results surrounding resistant carbon pools have emerged as critical findings,” Dr Jones said. “These pools serve as a vital buffer against soil carbon loss and play a key role in placing our cropping systems and the broader Australian agricultural industry at the forefront of climate change mitigation.” 

This study reinforced Loam Bio’s capacity to harness the potential of microbes to address climate change and deliver greater outcomes for farmers.

Dr. Yolima Carrillo, Dr. Emiko Stuart and Prof. Jeff Powell are excited to continue researching the role of fungi in soil carbon cycling. For farmers, the benefits are substantial. Stable soil carbon translates to improved plant growth, productive soils and a more sustainable cropping system. By harnessing the power of fungi to enhance soil carbon storage, this collaboration strives to equip farmers with knowledge and strategies to sequester soil carbon, while optimising their yields and increasing the sustainability of their operation.

Posted on 30 May 2024

og australian researchers lead soil science breakthrough

Caption: Dr Emiko Stuart (Western Sydney University), Dr Andrew Jones (Loam Bio) and Dr Yolima Carillo (Western Sydney University), in the laboratory at the Hawkesbury Institute of the Environment, where soil respiration studies were conducted.