The world’s first crop that uses a new gene-editing technology has been developed at the University of California, Berkeley

A group of researchers hopes to do $ 11 million in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative. The funding will go toward efforts to enhance plants – starting with rice – and soil so that they’re better at trapping carbon dioxide.

‘we just did n’t want to sit on the sidelines anymore,’ says creative genomics Institute executive director Brad ringeisen.

Climate experts overwhelmingly agree that the only way to truly tackle climate change is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we’re sending into the air. One way to accomplish that is through plants. Plants naturally take in a common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, during photosynthesis.

Igi is interested in developing crops with longer roots. Longer roots can deposit the carbon deeper into the soil so that it is n’t so easily released into the atmosphere again. A similar effort to influence plants’ genes is underway at the Salk Institute for biological studies.

Soil does n’t hold onto carbon for very long. It escapes through soil microbes’ respiration as they break down plant matter. igi’s CRISPR research could be added to the dirt to nurture a soil microbiome that holds onto carbon longer.

The $ 11 million from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative funds three years of research. If successful at genetically engineering plants and soil microbes within that time frame, scaling up to have a meaningful impact on the climate will still be a huge challenge.

Cesar terrer is an assistant professor at MIT who leads a lab focused on plant-soil interactions.’CRISPR can do much to improve carbon sequestration at the scale we need,’ he writes.

Terrer is not involved in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory project. He says that focusing on ways to engineer nature can be a distraction from the need to cut greenhouse gas pollution in the first place.

Agriculture is already responsible for its own enormous carbon footprint – much of it coming from livestock and fertilizer. Soggy rice paddies are an ideal home for methane-producing microbes.

Rice is now grown by more than 6 million farmers across India and Bangladesh. Scientists are working on a new genetic engineering that’s more like precision breeding.

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