The world's population is projected to grow to 10 billion people in the next 30 years. Consequently, we can also expect that emission levels will follow a similar trend, hence increasing global warming. The increase of CO2 concentration of the atmosphere has a high correlation to the growth of the population. Both emissions from increased population as well as the decrease of CO2 sinks (through conversion of land to arable land) have contributed to this effect. The International “4 per 1000” initiative comes to the conclusion that soils can play a crucial role in food security and climate change.
Why we need to increase humic substance in the soil
More than 75 % of Earth’s land areas are substantially degraded and 90% of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050 [source EU Science Hub]. Soil degradation has a negative impact on food security and reduces the soil's capacity to sequester carbon. Our ability to feed 10 billion people in 2050 in a context of climate change will depend, among other things, on our ability to keep soils alive. The 4per1000 initiative advocates the increase of soil as major lever in addressing the climate change and food security. Image source: https://www.fao.org/3/u8480e/U8480E0D.htm
"Increasing the storage of carbon by 0.4% in the top 30-40 cm of the soil could stop the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere"
“4 per 1000” Initiative – Soils for Food Security and Climate
Inspired by nature, Powered by science
Our Hydrothermal Humification Processtransforms biomass into humic substance
We create new humic substance through our Hydrothermal Humification Processin order to capture and store carbon and reverse soil degradation. This exceeds any known technology in terms of:
Use of different biomaterials (wet & dry);
Enabling large scale production of humic substances;
Fast, continuous and asset-light processing (less than two hours);
A key climate solution lies under our feet—in soil (source:www.climatecentral.org). Soils are a nourishing place for diversity of life with fascinating complexity of dynamic interconnections. A teaspoon of soil contains more organisms than there are humans on Earth. The soil ecosystem is made from living and nonliving components, and both have an impact on one another and their surroundings. Those organisms and products of their life are natural organic carbon storage. But some land management practices in agriculture have devastating effects on the dynamic balance in soil. They are harming soil microbiome and leading to carbon release. The ways we use soils for agriculture is just as decisive for its constitution as nutrient cycles and biodiversity. The world's soil contains 2-3 times more carbon than the atmosphere, which points to the scales that soil plays in mitigating climate change. Regenerative practices such as following a certain crop order, planting cover crops, avoiding tilling and harmful inputs are essential to stop further degradation of our soils. But this won’t be enough. Increasing this storage of carbon by just 0.4% per year in the top 30-40cm of the soil could stop the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (source:https://4p1000.org/?lang=en). So on top of remediating the soils for productivity, we should not disregard its potential to reach net carbon zero. In order to ensure long term food security for a constantly growing world population, we need to combat soil degradation and enhance nature's ability to protect its eco- and climatic systems. Restoring and amplifying the effect of the soil’s microbiome can be achieved by using humic substances. Humic substances serve to enable the uptake of phosphate for better plant growth and nurse microbes that turn carbon dioxide into organic bonded matter in the soil. Sources: https://www.climatecentral.org/climate-matters/solutions-series-capturing-carbon-in-soil-2022 https://4p1000.org/?lang=en https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY9YVwJZDvw&t=1s
What is the Hydrothermal Humification Process?
Hydrothermal Humification is an accelerated, man-made humification process allowing to combine the fast speed of biomass conversion and a nature-mimicking chemical approach, fully meeting the requirements of sustainable and green chemistry. It may accomplish the goal of carbon sequestration and biomass energy consumption, which has been widely researched (Sui et al., 2021). Hydrothermal processing of even wet biomass under autogenous pressure under oxygen exclusion is a mild chemical process that simulates natural coalification, but with an acceleration factor of up to 10^9; in addition, as an abiotic process, hydrothermal processing usually achieves excellent carbon yields: the majority of the carbon bound in biomass ends up in the humified product. This progression is also distinct from flame processes, in which a significant portion of the biomass carbon is oxidized and emitted as greenhouse gasses (CO2 and CO) (Yang et al., 2019). Sources: Sui, W., Li, S., Zhou, X., Dou, Z., Liu, R., Wu, T., Jia, H., Wang, G. and Zhang, M. (2021). Potential Hydrothermal-Humification of Vegetable Wastes by Steam Explosion and Structural Characteristics of Humified Fractions. Molecules 2021, 26(13), 3841; https://doi.org/ 10. 3390/molecules26133841
How does Humus protect the environment and climate?
Humus can store large amounts of carbon in the soil for a longer period of time. Every year, plants recover about 7% of the atmosphere's CO2 thanks to their photosynthesis. Once the plant dies and decomposes, living organisms in the soil such as bacteria, fungi and earthworms transform them into carbon-rich organic matter. That matter holds water, nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the essential nutrients for plant growth. The higher the humus content of the soil, the more carbon is bound. However, humus is only a guarantee for long-term carbon storage if the humus content is kept constant or increased through the constant supply of new organic material. Otherwise, the carbon from the humus will be released back into the atmosphere as CO2 (source:www.bundesregierung.de). The amount of carbon stored depends not only on the type of soil but also on how an area is used. For example, while arable land stores an average of around 80 tons of carbon per hectare, temperate grasslands stores an average of 236 tons per hectare (source:www.visualcapitalist.com). Consequently, farming can affect humus formation by the type of cultivation. Sources: https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/humus-und-klimaschutz-1965592 https://www.visualcapitalist.com/sp/visualizing-carbon-storage-in-earths-ecosystems/
What is Carbon Sequestration and how does it work?
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, securing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is based on the idea to stabilise carbon in solid and dissolved forms so that it doesn’t cause the atmosphere to warm. Carbon is sequestered in soil by plants through photosynthesis and can be stored as soil organic carbon (SOC). With humic acids, we are biologically amplifying the ability of the soil's microbiome to sequester carbon. Agricultural ecosystems can degrade and deplete the SOC levels but this carbon deficit opens up the opportunity to store carbon through new land management practices (Fei H. et al., 2021). Source: Fei, H., and Zhang, C. (2021). Global warming solutions: Carbon capture and storage. E3S Web of Conferences 308, 010 24. https://www. e3s-conferences.org /articles/ e3sconf /pdf / 20 21/84/e3sconf_msetee2021_01024.pdf
The organic material in the soil is essentially broken down and converted into two important parts: the so-called nutrient humus and the permanent humus. The nutrient humus makes up about a third of the soil humus. It serves as a food source for soil organisms and thus stimulates biological activity in the soil. The nutrients bound there are released quickly and can be used by the plants for growth. The other two thirds become permanent humus. These are very stable compounds that are only broken down very slowly by the microorganisms. As a result, the plant nutrients in them are only released in small quantities. Permanent humus is therefore a slow-flowing source of nutrients for plants. An important component of permanent humus are humic substances - complex organic compounds that are brown to black in colour (source:www. bundesregierung.de). Source: https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/humus-und-klimaschutz-1965592
What are Humic Substances?
Humic substances are components of humus that are formed from the degraded organic matter of the soil during the humification process. Humification is considered to be the second most important step in the carbon cycle, behind photosynthesis. As the most abundant component of soil organic matter, humic substances accounts for 60-80% of it and is critical to the preservation of soil ecosystem functions. Humic substances are classified into three types based on their solubility in acids and bases: humins, humic acids, and fulvic acids (Yang F. et al., 2021). Source: Yang, F., Tang, C., Antonietti, M. (2021): Natural and artificial humic substances to manage minerals, ions, water, and soil microorganisms. Chem. Soc. Rev., 50, 6221-6239. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2021/cs/d0cs01363c
What are the economic benefits of humic substances?
Obviously, humic substances are one of the chemical compounds on which life depends. It has long been recognized for their positive impact on soils and, as a result, plant growth. Plant nutrient supply is optimized by increasing yield, accompanied by a reduction in fertilizer and pesticide use. Furthermore, soil water holding capacity might be significantly increased, implying that water use could be substantially decreased. According to current scientific research, the amount of humic substances in soil determines its fertility to a large extent. They are highly valued for boosting soil fertility and plant growth due to their high cation-exchange capacity (CEC) and oxygen content. In general, redox buffering of humic compounds promotes the growth and activity of microorganisms. Moreover, the ability of humic substances to bind insoluble metal ions, oxides, and hydroxides and release them slowly and continuously to plants is one of the their most essential properties (Yang F. et al., 2021). Source: Yang, F., Tang, C., Antonietti, M. (2021): Natural and artificial humic substances to manage minerals, ions, water, and soil microorganisms. Chem. Soc. Rev., 50, 6221-6239. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2021/cs/d0cs01363c