Could a co-product from paper recycling help farmers to improve soil health whilst building carbon stocks? This was the question being explored by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and discussed at the 2020 Innovation Hub – and recent reseach suggest that it would.
UEA is working with Greenworld Ltd to explore the potential of Paper Crumble (PC) to improve soils and improve the delivery of public goods, as explained by Brian Reid, Professor of Soil Science and Associate Dean for Science (Innovation) at UEA:
“Soil carbon enables soil to self-structure, and thus increases water infiltration, increase water storage and decreases the risk of flooding. The opportunity to sequester carbon in soil through the use of paper crumble could make a meaningful contribution to net zero aspirations.”
Practices that increase soil carbon stocks can also improve a range of essential ecosystem services, such as food, fuel and resource production, climate change mitigation and biodiversity net gain.
Listen to an interview with Prof Brian Reid from UEA and Steve Kilham, Managing Director of Greenworld Ltd.
UEA discussed the opportunities to increase soil carbon with farmers and growers and has since trialled the use of paper crumble in field trials.
Brian says: “In September 2020, we established a second paper crumble field trial near Swaffham to look at the influence of paper crumble on light sandy soils. This is as a counterpoise to the heavy clay soils trial already in place near King’s Lynn. We are also seeking a location with mid-texture soil for a third trial.”
The team has developed a carbon profiling approach to assess the effectiveness of carbon storage.
Brian continues: “In order to provide a prognosis on the longevity of carbon storage under paper crumble amendment, we have developed a carbon profiling approach that can be used to support the modelling of long-term carbon fate in soil amended with PC.
“Given an average farm size, in the East of England, of 120 ha (with 79 % as arable), a 50 year Carbon uplift (via 4-year rotational PC amendment) would be 607 t C (equivalent to 2225 t CO2e in long-term “lock-up”). Thus, the opportunity to sequester carbon in soil through paper crumble deployments could deliver a meaningful contribution to net zero aspirations.”