Update on our field season

Introducing RockFACE! How has the site progressed over the course of our first basalt-based field season? Our student in the US, Megan Allen, updates us on key happenings, from basalt application to crop emergence through to sampling and harvest.

A photo showing one of the enrichment rings at the RockFACE site

Our student in the US, Megan Allen, gives us an informative update on the last season at RockFACE:

"RockFACE is situated at one of our research farms out in Champaign, Illinois, where the university has been conducting field trials typically aimed at investigating climate change impacts on the good ole’ Midwestern rotation of corn and soybean (and sometimes also cassava!) for over 20 years. We are now utilising our unique experimental plots to test how enhanced weathering in cropland systems could be impacted by future scenarios of elevated carbon dioxide. So how has the site progressed over the course of our first basalt-based field season?

A photo taken from above showing staff working on crops within the RockFACE elevated CO2 ring
A photo showing bags of crushed basalt to be buried in the soil, as part of the RockFACE enhanced rock weathering trials for greenhouse gas removal at elevated CO2 levels

"Basalt was applied and rototilled in during November of 2021 and the corn was planted in May of 2022. After seedling emergence, it was time to get into the field season measurement routine. In the pictures above, we are burying mesh bags of basalt dust within the field that will be gradually removed over the duration of this experiment to calculate rates of weathering.

A photo showing syringing during N2O sampling

"There were plenty of new skills to be developed (at least for me!) including N2O extraction, which involved running, or if we’re being honest: ridiculous power walking, between two plots in order to extract an air sample every 2.5 minutes. I like to think of myself as “calm and collected” but once I was mid-way through a frantic 2-hour cycle of N2O sampling in 100+ degree weather and the needle of my syringe broke (despite stringent risk assessments and health and safety - the unexpected may always still occur in the field), it made me I think I might need to reassess that … !

A photo showing the RockFACE field site at harvest time

"All in all, it was a successful field season, and I’m feeling much more prepared for the next summer. There’s always a sense of relief that comes with harvest time, knowing that you can give up the long, sweaty days in the field and hide away in air-conditioned buildings. But then winter settles in, your eyes blur from staring at your computer all day, and you become restless, ready to do it all over again. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Next year… soybeans!"

Thanks so much, Megan!

Watch this space for more updates on our RockFACE trial as the experiment progresses.