Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI) will receive a $12.5 million gift from Hess Corporation to advance two projects to enhance plants’ natural ability to store carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change: the CRoPS (CO2 Removal on a Planetary Scale) program and the Coastal Plant Restoration (CPR) program. These projects build on the Salk discovery of a crucial gene that will help the team develop plants with larger root systems that according to the Salk Institute are capable of absorbing and storing potentially billions of tons of carbon per year from the atmosphere.
“We are grateful to Hess for funding the Harnessing Plants Initiative to address issues of climate change,” says Salk President and Professor Rusty Gage. “This generous gift will help make possible the effort to use plants to significantly reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stably store it for long periods.”
CEO John Hess said, “Climate change is the greatest scientific challenge of the 21st century. Scientific advancements such as Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative will play a vital role in meeting this challenge, and we are delighted to support this groundbreaking work. This gift reflects our company’s long-term commitment to sustainability.”
The CRoPS program aims to create Salk Ideal PlantsÔ, which will have robust root systems rich in a naturally occurring plant molecule called suberin (e.g., cork), making them a scalable and affordable way to store carbon in the soil. These crop plants can then be integrated into global agriculture to decrease atmospheric carbon by potentially billions of tons per year. The additional carbon will make the soil richer in organic matter, resulting in better crop yields.
The CPR program focuses on protecting and restoring wetland ecosystems. Coastal plants such as mangroves, marsh grasses and wetland plants have the natural ability to draw down even more carbon dioxide per year than land plants and can store the carbon for centuries in their roots. Salk HPI scientists will conduct genetically informed restoration and preservation of these wetlands by selecting the best-performing plants suitable for specific geographies, water and sediment chemistries, and climates.
“We are tremendously excited by how much this generous gift from the Hess Corporation will advance our critical research into a plant-based approach to deal with a warming planet,” says Professor Joanne Chory, director of Salk’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and executive director of the Harnessing Plants Initiative. “Among other things, the gift will allow us to field test our new plant varieties within the next few years—and with climate change, there is simply no time to lose.”
About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk’s mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer’s, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at salk.edu.