Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Glomalin: What likely makes switchgrass so special

The USDA has a great easy to read article which covers the basics of glomalin as it relates to plants. According to the USDA article it turns out that switchgrass has higher glomalin activity which might explain its robust growth and better carbon gobbling ablity over other crops like corn.

I don't know the science at all beyond a basic level but even for a layperson like myself I can see the potential. If we could better understand glomalin's function or influencing factors we might be able to boost the carbon feasting ablities of other crops.

Glomalin is a sugar protein excreted by soil fungi ands serves an additional role as a facilitator of water and nutrient uptake into the roots of plants. I have seen presentations where they talk about plants, fungi, and symbiotic relationships before but this is the first study I've seen where they might influence the amount of biomass to be had by a plant.

Said best by Linda Tokarz who wrote the article at the USDA:

"Glomalin may be partly responsible for the ability of switchgrass to store more soil carbon than corn—and to store it deeper, so it’s less likely to be lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus, glomalin might not only help biofuel crops grow and flourish under adverse conditions like drought, but also close the carbon cycle by storing carbon released as carbon dioxide during the burning of biofuels for energy."

The picture above is a microscopic view of glomalin taken from the USDA article page. This picture and further reading are better explained at the USDA page.

No comments: