Pop-up rainforest in East Yorkshire to capture carbon, reduce flooding risk and improve soil health

More than 40 farmers in the UK’s East Yorkshire region are to create a “pop up rainforest” that will help them plant a diverse range of cover crops that will capture carbon, reduce flooding risk and improve soil health.

The Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project – a collaboration between Yorkshire Water, Birds Eye, Future Food Solutions and Hull and Teesside universities – will see farmers growing cover crops between harvesting and sowing.

A diverse range of cover crops, otherwise known as pop-up rainforests, can capture huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Trials have found the plants can also increase soil organic matter by up to 40 tonnes per hectare, which can sequester nett over four tonnes of atmospheric carbon per year.

Soil organic matter has fallen by 50% over the past 60 years. Using cover crops to restore the levels of soil organic matter not only has the potential to re-establish soil health, but could also help contribute to reversing the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.

Research shows that achieving just a 1% increase in soil organic matter would enable agricultural land to store an extra 200,000 litres of water per hectare.

The pre-project trials have already achieved a dramatic rise in soil organic matter, more than doubling levels in just five years, from 3% to over 6%.

Yorkshire Water asset strategy manager Andrew Walker said: “Growing cover crops to increase soil organic matter is one of the most effective way of combatting the major environmental issues we face today.

“In just seven weeks, they generate enough carbon-sequestering organic material to make a significant dent in atmospheric CO2. If grown on a global scale, arable farming could become the first sector of the economy to be net carbon zero.”

Soil organic matter, water content and other metrics will be monitored by the University of Hull on an ongoing basis.

It is understood that Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project could also play a major role in the reduction of flooding in Hull.

Image Credit: Yorkshire Water

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living.

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