Gene Editing for Enhanced Carbon Sequestration by Plants

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Gene editing for enhanced carbon sequestration is a cutting-edge approach that utilizes genetic engineering techniques to modify plants and trees, enhancing their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This innovative field holds immense potential for maximizing the carbon capture capabilities of large carbon sinks, such as forests and agricultural lands, playing a significant role in mitigating climate change.

Impact on climate action

Gene editing for enhanced carbon sequestration revolutionizes managing large carbon sinks. By optimizing plant traits, such as root architecture and photosynthetic efficiency, it boosts carbon absorption. This innovation accelerates natural carbon capture, mitigating climate change effects and fostering more effective climate action strategies with heightened carbon sequestration capabilities.


  • CRISPR-Cas9: CRISPR-Cas9 is a revolutionary gene-editing tool that allows scientists to precisely alter DNA sequences within an organism’s genome. It acts like molecular scissors, targeting specific genes and enabling the insertion, deletion, or modification of genetic information.
  • Photosynthesis Enhancement: Gene editing can be used to optimize the photosynthetic process in plants, increasing their efficiency in capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass.
  • Root System Modification: Modifying root systems can enhance carbon storage by promoting deeper root growth, increasing soil carbon sequestration.
  • Biomass Production and Composition: Gene editing can increase the amount of biomass produced by plants and alter its composition, favoring the production of lignin and other carbon-rich compounds that decompose slowly, leading to longer-term carbon storage in the soil.

TRL : 3-5

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Engineering Trees for Faster Growth and Higher Carbon Storage: Scientists are working to develop trees that grow faster, produce more wood, and store more carbon in their biomass.
  • Modifying Crops for Enhanced Soil Carbon Sequestration: Researchers are exploring gene editing techniques to increase root biomass and alter root exudates in crops, promoting carbon storage in the soil.
  • Developing Algae with Increased CO2 Absorption Capacity: Gene editing can be used to enhance the CO2 absorption capacity of algae, making them more efficient for carbon capture and biofuel production.
  • Creating Plants with Resistance to Environmental Stresses: Gene editing can enhance the resilience of plants to drought, pests, and diseases, ensuring the long-term health and carbon sequestration potential of forests and agricultural lands.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Precision Carbon Sink Management
  • CRISPR-Cas9 for Climate Resilience
  • Optimal Photosynthetic Efficiency
  • Root System Enhancement for Carbon Sequestration
  • Biomass Composition Modification
  • Accelerated Tree Growth for Carbon Capture
  • Crop Root Biomass Augmentation
  • Algae Engineering for CO2 Absorption
  • Enhanced Algae-Based Biofuel Production
  • Drought-Resistant Plant Varieties
  • Pest-Resistant Crop Development
  • Disease-Resistant Tree Species
  • Forest Health Improvement Strategies
  • Agricultural Land Carbon Sequestration Solutions
  • Gene Editing for Soil Carbon Enrichment
  • Altered Root Exudates for Carbon Storage
  • Algae CO2 Capture Efficiency Enhancement
  • Climate-Adaptive Plant Breeding
  • Gene Editing for Climate-Resilient Ecosystems
  • Sustainable Carbon Sink Management Technologies

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Living Carbon:
    • Technology Focus: Living Carbon likely specializes in genetic modification of plants to enhance their ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They might use gene editing techniques such as CRISPR to modify key traits in plants that promote carbon capture and storage.
    • Uniqueness: Living Carbon could stand out for its innovative approach to leveraging biotechnology for climate change mitigation. By genetically engineering plants for increased carbon sequestration, they offer a sustainable solution to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments might include forestry, agriculture, and land management industries, as well as governmental and environmental organizations seeking nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration.
  • Inari:
    • Technology Focus: Inari is likely focused on leveraging gene editing and advanced breeding techniques to develop crops with enhanced traits, including improved carbon sequestration capabilities. They may use precision breeding methods to create varieties optimized for carbon capture and storage.
    • Uniqueness: Inari stands out for its comprehensive platform that integrates cutting-edge genetic technologies with traditional breeding practices to create crops tailored for specific environmental challenges, including carbon sequestration.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could benefit agricultural producers, food companies, and environmental organizations interested in sustainable agriculture and climate-smart crop varieties.
  • Synthetic Genomics:
    • Technology Focus: Synthetic Genomics likely focuses on synthetic biology and gene editing technologies to engineer microorganisms capable of sequestering carbon or enhancing carbon fixation processes. They may design custom microbial strains optimized for carbon capture and conversion.
    • Uniqueness: Synthetic Genomics is known for its pioneering work in synthetic biology and genome editing, offering a unique platform for designing and building custom microbes with specific functions, including carbon sequestration.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions might target industries such as bioenergy, bioremediation, and carbon capture and utilization, as well as research institutions and government agencies interested in microbial solutions for environmental challenges.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the Salk Institute are leveraging advanced gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 to engineer plants with enhanced carbon sequestration capabilities. They are modifying the genetic makeup of plants to optimize their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The Salk Institute’s research involves targeted genetic modifications to key carbon fixation pathways in plants, aiming to increase their efficiency in converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into biomass and soil organic matter. This approach holds the potential to significantly enhance the capacity of natural carbon sinks to mitigate climate change.
    • End-use Applications: The engineered plants developed at the Salk Institute have potential applications in reforestation, afforestation, and restoration projects aimed at enhancing carbon sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems. These genetically modified plants could also be deployed in agricultural systems to improve soil carbon storage and crop productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are pioneering gene editing techniques to engineer microbial communities for enhanced carbon sequestration in soil ecosystems. They are modifying the genetic traits of soil microorganisms to improve their ability to metabolize and store carbon compounds derived from plant residues.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory focuses on understanding the complex interactions between plants, soil microbes, and environmental factors influencing carbon cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. By harnessing the power of microbial genetics, researchers aim to develop bioengineered soil amendments that promote long-term carbon sequestration and soil health.
    • End-use Applications: The bioengineered microbial communities developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory could be applied in various land management practices, including conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and soil carbon sequestration projects. These microbial amendments have the potential to enhance soil fertility, resilience to climate change, and ecosystem services provided by natural habitats.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology are utilizing cutting-edge gene editing tools and genomic technologies to engineer crop plants with enhanced carbon sequestration traits. They are modifying the genetic architecture of crops to optimize photosynthetic efficiency, biomass production, and carbon allocation.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology integrates genomics, bioinformatics, and plant physiology to identify and manipulate key genes and regulatory networks involved in carbon assimilation and partitioning. This multidisciplinary approach enables the development of crop varieties with improved carbon capture and storage capacities.
    • End-use Applications: The genetically engineered crops developed at the University of Illinois have potential applications in sustainable agriculture, bioenergy production, and climate change mitigation efforts. These enhanced crop varieties could contribute to increased food security, renewable energy production, and carbon sequestration in agricultural landscapes, thereby promoting environmental sustainability and resilience.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Gene editing for enhanced carbon sequestration is still in the research and development phase, and no commercial applications are currently available. Field trials and regulatory approvals are necessary before this technology can be deployed at scale.