A landmark farm-based project that could help return atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels has been launched in East Yorkshire.
As well as having the potential to counter the effects of climate change, the Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project could also drastically reduce flooding and improve soil health.
A collaboration between Birds Eye, Yorkshire Water and supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions, research expertise is being provided by the University of Hull, with support from Teesside University.
At its core are more than 40 farmers from across East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, who grow peas for the frozen food giant - with processing in Hull.
The project involves growing specific cover crops - described as pop-up rainforests - in the window between harvesting and sowing their next peas.
It is made up of a diverse range of species chosen for their ability to capture huge amounts of CO2.
Trials funded by Yorkshire Water and facilitated by the UK Birds Eye Agricultural Team show they can increase soil organic matter by up to 40 tonnes per hectare, which can sequester over four tonnes of atmospheric carbon per year.
Andrew Walker, asset strategy manager for Yorkshire Water, said: “Growing cover crops to increase soil organic matter is one of the most effective ways of combatting the major environmental issues we face today.
“In just seven weeks, they generate enough carbon-sequestering organic material to make a significant dent in atmospheric CO2.
“If grown on a global scale, arable farming could become the first sector of the economy to be net carbon zero.”
The project could also play a role in easing problematic flood issues around Hull. Yorkshire Water is a core partner in the Living With Water partnership in the city, with areas sitting below the high tide line.
Mr Walker said: “Research shows that achieving just a 1 per cent increase in soil organic matter would enable agricultural land to store an extra 200,000 litres of water per hectare.