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Dumping Crops at Sea Proposed as Way to Bury Carbon

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    Dumping Crops at Sea Proposed as Way to Bury Carbon

    Each year farmers in the United States reap enormous bounty from their endless corn fields and amber waves of grain. In all, some 300 million tons of food float down the Mississippi River toward waiting, hungry mouths.

    But a new study suggests there is a second harvest to be had from America's vast bread basket, too -- one that could be an answer to global warming.

    Sucked from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and sequestered in leftover husks and stalks are 150 million tons of carbon.

    Scientists now claim that all we need to do is toss them to the bottom of the sea, and a huge quantity of greenhouse gases be banished at a stroke.

    "This is just recycling carbon," Stuart Strand of the University of Washington said. "It came out of the deep environment where it was stored for years as fossil fuels. We want to put it back."

    Simply harvest about 30 percent of the straw and corn stalks left on the field after harvest, ship it out to sea on barges, weight it down, and dump in by the ton into the cold, dark depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

    If the process is mimicked for farms and crops around the world, Strand and Benford estimate their method would remove a total of 600 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. That takes into consideration fossil fuels needed to transport the plant mass, which they think will emit 8 tons of carbon for every 100 tons they bury at sea.

    Worldwide, humanity's penchant for burning fossil fuels emits 8 billion tons into the atmosphere a year.