Role of phytolith occluded carbon of crop plants for enhancing soil carbon sequestration in agro-ecosystems

Phytolith occluded carbon (PhytOC) which is stable in the soil environment is considered to be an important fraction of soil organic carbon and substantially contributes to the terrestrial carbon sequestration for long periods (millennia). Phytoliths are silica bodies produced by plants as a result of biomineralization process. During this process, occlusion of carbon also takes place within the phytoliths. Some of the major agricultural crops like barley, maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat are known to be prolific producers of phytolith and PhytOC. In India, an estimate indicates that these crops may annually contribute about 87 million tonnes (mt) of PhytOC. Hence, a great potential exists to enhance PhytOC accumulation in the soils of various agro-ecosystems.