The esteemed scientist – who has long banged the climate drum and now leads a project that could lower the Earth’s temperature – is perhaps the world’s leading botanist and is on the cusp of something so big that it could truly change our planet.
“We’re trying to do something that’s a huge, complicated thing even though it sounds so simple,” Chory says. “Plants evolved to suck up CO2 and they’re really good at it. And they concentrate it, which no machine can do, and they make it into useful materials, like sugar. They suck up all the CO2, they fix it, then it goes back up into the atmosphere.”
She is now working to design plants capable of storing even more carbon dioxide in their roots. Her Ideal Plant project uses gene editing – via traditional horticulture and Crispr – to do so. On a large scale, this could suck enough carbon out of the atmosphere to slow down climate change.
This concept basically splices the genes of regular crops and everyday plants like beans, corn and cotton, with a new compound that makes them absorb more carbon. Their roots then transfer it to the soil to keep it there.