Phil Robertson may be on the cusp of solving a long-standing mystery.
Boosters of organic food often say the practice, which rejects synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, is a good method for curbing climate change because it stores more carbon in the soil. But aside from anecdotal observations, no one could really explain the dynamics behind why organic fields keep more carbon underground than conventional ones.
Robertson, a researcher at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station, thinks he might have an answer: a chemical group called phenolics, a class of complex compounds that also protect plants from disease and pests.
In understanding the role phenolics play, Robertson’s findings could lead to a better understanding of how to cut emissions from the global agriculture sector.
The idea that organic agriculture keeps more carbon underground is not a novel one, Robertson said. But the fact that legumes may produce a disproportionate amount of phenolic compounds may be unique. Robertson plans to publish the findings in the coming year.
The entire article by Tiffany Stecker can be found on E&E.