Where do plants get their carbon?

The essential ingredient for all growing plants is CO2 in the atmosphere. But organic matter in the soil is also of value for the plant life on which we all depend. It can only be put into the soil by growing plants (including fungi) and the bacteria, worms and other microbes that live on and beside the plants. All plant and soil carbon comes, in the end, from CO2 in the atmosphere.

Leaves collect carbon and oxygen from the air, roots collect minerals, water and nitrogen plus some carbon from the soil. Plants can live without carbon in soil (as in hydroponics), but not without carbon dioxide in the air.

The biggest stupidity in the carbon debate is treating carbon dioxide as an atmospheric pollutant. All food for plants and animals comes from this gas of life – it is not a pollutant.

The second biggest stupidity in the soil carbon debate is the biofuel myth that we can use the “waste” from crops or grasslands to produce motor spirit without affecting soil fertility and productivity. There is no “waste”in a sustainable farming operation. All organic “waste” should be mulched back into the soil, to feed the soil microbes that add humus, that holds mineral nutrients and soil moisture. Every tonne of carbon trucked off from a bit of land reduces soil productivity and has to be replaced from the CO2 in the air.

Once the biofuel gets burnt in motors, it gets back to the soil or the oceans eventually via carbon dioxide in the air (unless some fool has buried the CO2 in geo-sequestration cemeteries).

Viv Forbes

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