The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation and by adopting strategies that actively remove CO2 from it. Biogeochemical improvement of soils by adding crushed, fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands is one such CO2-removal strategy. This approach has the potential to improve crop production, increase protection from pests and diseases, and restore soil fertility and structure. Managed croplands worldwide are already equipped for frequent rock dust additions to soils, making rapid adoption at scale feasible, and the potential benefits could generate financial incentives for widespread adoption in the agricultural sector. However, there are still obstacles to be surmounted. Audited field-scale assessments of the efficacy of CO2 capture are urgently required together with detailed environmental monitoring. A cost-effective way to meet the rock requirements for CO2 removal must be found, possibly involving the recycling of silicate waste materials. Finally, issues of public perception, trust and acceptance must also be addressed.

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We acknowledge funding from the Leverhulme Trust through a Leverhulme Research Centre Award (RC-2015-029). L.L.T. was supported by an ERC advanced grant awarded to D.J.B. (CDREG, 322998). R. Thorley is thanked for assistance with Fig. 1. We dedicate this paper to the memory of Professor William (Bill) G. Chaloner FRS (1928–2016), a passionate scientific polymath and extraordinary mentor to generations of researchers.

Author information


  1. Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

    • David J. Beerling
    • , Jonathan R. Leake
    • , Julie D. Scholes
    • , Jurriaan Ton
    • , Euripides Kantzas
    • , Lyla L. Taylor
    • , Binoy Sarkar
    •  & Mike Kelland
  2. Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

    • Stephen P. Long
    • , Evan DeLucia
    •  & Ilsa Kantola
  3. Department of Plant Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

    • Stephen P. Long
    •  & Evan DeLucia
  4. Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

    • Stephen P. Long
  5. College of Science and Engineering and Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

    • Paul N. Nelson
    •  & Michael Bird
  6. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany

    • Christoph Müller
  7. Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA

    • Greg Rau
  8. Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

    • James Hansen


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D.J.B. wrote the first draft of the manuscript, with contributions from J.R.L., S.P.L. and J.H. All authors provided input on sections and the addition of appropriate references in later drafts. E.K., L.L.T. and M.K. undertook data analysis.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David J. Beerling.