On March 22, 2021, The Del Mar Garden Club of Southern California held an informational session called “Fighting Climate Change with Plants”. As a person who is extremely concerned about the looming apocalyptic events due to climate chaos, but not extremely well informed about what we can do to prevent them, I signed up.
I quickly realized that the presentation was not going in the direction that I had hoped, meaning extolling the innate virtues of plants that have the ability to sequester carbon if we just let Mother Nature do her job. No. Featured speaker Joanne Chory, a plant geneticist from the Salk Institute, based in San Diego, CA shared how she and her team were genetically engineering plants to have bigger roots, longer roots, and roots that sequester more carbon by manipulating the gene that makes suberin to make more suberin and therefore hold more carbon, and then put those genes into crop plants. They were going to start with Sorghum. (I will talk about why that is interesting later.) She showed slides depicting what would be manipulated and how the roots were in fact growing longer in preliminary trials. I actually considered that it might be a good idea. For about a second.