Volcanic Particles in Agriculture and Gardening; A way to reduce Global Hunger and Sequester CO2?

Published on May 10, 2021
Volcanic pyroclasts of small size, such as lapilli and small pumice stones, are widely used in agriculture, gardening, and for pot plants as natural inorganic mulch. The technique of using pyroclasts to enhance topsoil stems from the eighteenth century, and specifically from the ad 1730–1736 eruption on Lanzarote. Critical observations on plant development during and after the eruption showed that the vegetation died when buried under a thick layer of lapilli, but grew vigorously when covered thinly. The population of Lanzarote doubled in the years after the eruption, from about 5000 in 1730 to near 10000 in 1768, predominantly as a result of the higher agricultural productivity. So, what is the secret of volcanic particles in achieving this? One aspect is that lapilli and pumice provide vesicle space in which moisture can be retained longer within the planting soil, which may create an environment for micro‐bacteria to thrive in, even in dry climate zones. Moreover, more micro-organisms means more CO2 is fixed in the soil and will thus become available to plant life. In addition, nutrients such as P, K, and N are present in volcanic matter and are efficiently transported into the surrounding soil by microbial action and non-microbial breakdown (weathering) of volcanic particles, providing a steady state source of a 'within soil' fertilizer. In-depth studies on volcanic particles promise significant potential to further optimize future agricultural efforts, particularly in otherwise arid areas of the globe, and may help to sequester additional CO2 without major new carbon capture technologies.

Read more: Volcanic particles in agriculture and gardening

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