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Removing CO2 from the atmosphere and naturally trapping this greenhouse gas in the soil – this sounds too good to be true. And yet it really is possible. By its very nature, soil is one of the planet’s carbon stores that can be influenced the most. A quality that makes it particularly good for the climate and one that can be put to good use. Working with the Fraunhofer Institute, REMONDIS has developed a system to optimise the way soil stores carbon. Central to this development are a digital tool and the quality-assured composts produced by RETERRA.
Every single contribution helps when it comes to tackling the global challenges caused by climate change. Introducing bans and making sacrifices are, however, not always the best way to move forward. Nature has created a perfect soil carbon capture system: CO2 is drawn from the air by plants as they grow and is released into the soil as carbon via plant roots or decomposing plant parts. The carbon in the soil is then broken down by microorganisms. Some of this is released back into the atmosphere as CO2. The majority of it, however, remains in the soil creating humus, the organic component of soil.
Soil not only acts as a carbon store in places untouched by human activity like moors and uncultivated land but also in intensively cultivated places such as farming and forestry land. A whole range of factors determine just how much carbon collects in the soil and how long it remains there. The impact of humans – whether it involves fertiliser, tillage or choice of plant – plays just as big a role here as the natural properties of the soil.
In average conditions, one tonne of RAL-certified (fresh matter) compost enables ca. 260 kilogrammes of CO2 to be stored.
One particularly important factor, though, is the humus content of the soil as the greater the amount of humus, the more carbon can be stored. Spreading compost is an ideal way to increase the humus content of agricultural land. Up to now, however, composts have primarily been seen as being a useful method of adding nutrients to farm land. However, with the impact of climate change becoming ever greater, the other advantages of compost are now coming to the fore – thanks to the link between humus content and carbon storage.
Thanks to the digital tool developed by the Fraunhofer Institute and REMONDIS, it is now possible to calculate the positive impact that spreading compost has on soil carbon capture and to express this in concrete figures. What’s more, it also gives some pointers about how this positive impact could be further increased. These calculations are based on RETERRA’s RAL-certified composts.
Just using the volumes of compost produced by RETERRA each year, an ideal combination of compost, soil and land use could store around 83,000 tonnes of carbon.
These high quality compost products are popular among farmers as they are a highly effective way of increasing a soil’s humus and nutrient content – guaranteeing, therefore, an improvement in soil fertility. Using its digital tool, RETERRA can now also show each farmer how crop rotation, land management and type of compost or organic fertiliser can promote soil carbon storage in their fields. Having been adjusted to a particular parcel of land, the tool displays the amount of stored carbon for the period of a crop rotation and as an average mean value.
The projections made by the Fraunhofer Institute make it very clear that it is well worth using agricultural land as a highly effective carbon store alongside its other primary uses: just using the volumes of compost produced by RETERRA each year, an ideal combination of compost, soil and land use could store around 83,000 tonnes of carbon.
RETERRA has been supporting farmers for over 30 years, supplying them with climate-friendly organic fertilisers.
Around 500,000 tonnes of the RAL-certified composts produced by the REMONDIS Group are currently used in agriculture. This figure may increase as a result of the incentives created by carbon trading. What’s more, during the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, the German government signed the ‘4 per 1000 Initiative’, which states that a growth rate of 0.4% in the soil carbon stocks in humus around the world would significantly reduce the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere related to human activities.
It is one of REMONDIS’ goals to work closely with local authorities to reduce the volumes of organic waste being sent for incineration so that these materials can be used to make compost and – consequently – further promote soil carbon capture.