120 scientists are researching hydrogen production at Montanuniversität Leoben alone. In one process, carbon steel is produced for the raw material as a by-product. This could be used in agriculture in the future: carbon helps improve plant growth.
Montanuniversität Leoben – One would hardly think of experimenting with corn and wheat here – and yet: Montanists want to know more about solid carbon. It can improve arable land: “The carbon we use has great potential in agriculture and, above all, it also has the potential to improve the availability of nutrients in the soil. Which also affects the plant and the yield,” explains agricultural scientist Nadine Abu Zahra.
“The experiences were really positive.”
It is possible to produce this carbon in large quantities in the future, for example at a test facility in Montagnone. Specifically when hydrogen is produced from natural gas or biogas, it can, among other things, enrich arable land. The natural carbon reserve in our soils has declined sharply due to intensive agricultural use.
“Our first attempts were really very positive,” describes Robert Openaus-Immler of Montagnone Leoben. “We saw in the greenhouse that we were able to notice an increase in plant growth, and above all we showed that the resistance of plants to drought stress is much better: once the plant is exposed to drought stress, It continues to grow compared to plants that do not contain carbon in the ground, and their growth is actually stunted and they wither and break down.
It is currently difficult to manage
Scientists in the Chair of General and Analytical Chemistry assume that just one percent carbon is enough to promote humus accumulation in stressed and depleted areas: “But it is more appropriate when we have carbon-depleted soils or low-carbon soils.” They are no longer well supplied with humus. This is where the positive properties can really come to the fore and we can build humus, store nutrients, increase resilience to drought stress and also help with some soils so that water can be stored better – when there is heavy rain, for example.
However, the valuable raw material is thin and stained – and difficult to handle when raw. Montanuniversität Leoben is therefore also researching how to make carbon available in granular form for transport and the best possible application.
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