Agriculture – a cause of global cooling

Agriculture – a cause of global cooling

Thanks to a collaboration between researchers at the University of East Anglia, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Cranfield University, we now know that agricultural land provides a source of the gas dimethylsulfide (DMS) which is produced when a molecule called dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is degraded by microbes in the soil. DMS is an important climate regulator because it plays a key part in the production and growth of atmospheric sulfate aerosols that influence the radiative properties of clouds. In other words, it increases the rate at which clouds reflect solar radiation which has a cooling effect on the earth’s atmosphere. The natural climate cooling effect of DMS is estimated to be of a similar magnitude to the warming that has been driven by human CO2 emissions.

According to the researchers, it is well known that marine algae, corals and bacteria are DMSP producers and that DMS is an important marine trace gas but, until now, few agricultural species have been tested for the ability to produce it. The new research has demonstrated that DMSP is present in the soil around crop roots, and that the levels of microbial DMS production is similar to those in seawater.

Who, other than a farmer, would have thought that a field of barley in Norfolk would not only be feeding the world but also helping to mitigate the climate crisis?

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