Genomic Science Program
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Biological and Environmental Research Program

RESTOR-C: Center for Restoration of Soil Carbon by Precision Biological Strategies


Susannah Tringe2*(, Sangu Angadi1, Bhavna Arora2, Taraka Dale3, Wibe de Jong2, Jose Pablo Dundore-Arias4, Aymerick Eudes2, Buck Hanson3, Sangeeta Negi3, Krishna Niyogi5, Marcus Noack2, Corinne Scown2, James Sethian2, Sanna Sevanto3, Patrick Shih5, Margaret Torn2, Daniela Ushizima2, Karsten Zengler6, Kateryna Zhalnina2, Trent Northen2


1New Mexico State University; 2Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; 3Los Alamos National Laboratory; 4California State University; 5University of California–Berkeley; 6University of California–San Diego


The goal of the Center for Restoration of Soil Carbon by Precision Biological Strategies (RESTOR-C) is to harness plants and microbes to increase carbon flux into soil carbon storage pools to form persistent carbon that is stable for >100 years. This will address the Carbon Negative Shot goal to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and durably store it at meaningful scales for less than $100 per net metric ton of CO2-equivalent within a decade.


Soil carbon represents a vast global carbon reservoir that has become depleted through human activities. Hence, soil carbon restoration can be used to sequester carbon at massive scales while improving soil fertility. To exploit this natural carbon sink and advance toward the cost and scale goals of the DOE Carbon Negative Shot, RESTOR-C will develop plant- and microbe-based strategies to increase accumulation of persistent carbon in soil. These strategies are designed to increase the amount of atmospheric carbon fixed by plants and increase the amount of the fixed carbon that is channeled belowground as soil persistent carbon. To accomplish this goal, the Center will apply cutting-edge molecular and computational methods to overcome key obstacles to persistent carbon storage in four key domains. The Soil Division will explore the chemical, biological and environmental factors that govern the persistence of carbon in soils, to enable the development of stable, long-term carbon storage solutions with a focus on arid and marginal lands. This work will combine soil carbon dating, advanced metabolomics methods, and artificial intelligence to determine the nature of the oldest carbon and features that influence its persistence. The Plant Division will design plant genotypes that efficiently capture and sequester carbon, through a combination of increased photosynthetic efficiency and optimized root phenotypes. These efforts will focus on sorghum, a stress-tolerant C4 bioenergy crop that can grow in a range of soils and climates with minimal nutrient inputs, building on team members’ experience engineering improved photosynthetic efficiency and altered root phenotypes in plants. The Microbial Division will identify and optimize microbial communities to promote carbon retention in soil. Methods to achieve this include chemical analysis to identify microbes that produce persistent carbon, omics-based analyses to determine microbial niche preferences, enrichment and selection methods to obtain carbon storage promoting microbes, and artificial intelligence–guided high-throughput experiments to test and improve microbial strategies for soil carbon deposition. Finally, the Scaling and Impact Division will model, predict, evaluate, and optimize cost and scale of soil carbon sequestration approaches. This work will build and connect field-scale reactive transport and agroecosystem-scale models of carbon dynamics with national-scale models of economic feasibility to predict the impact of carbon sequestration approaches, evaluate implementation strategies, and test promising approaches at the field level.

This research will break new ground in multidisciplinary research, leveraging unique expertise at two national laboratories and four university partners, including two minority-serving institutions, to integrate recent developments and breakthroughs spanning the biological, ecological, chemical, and computing sciences. At the end of the 4-year period, the Center will have validated plant-microbe strategies to increase carbon at target field sites in California and New Mexico, as well as a dramatically expanded knowledge base and set of capabilities to rapidly extend these approaches to other locations and crops. In the long term, these methods have the potential to restore carbon in U.S. agricultural lands, forging the way toward a carbon negative future.

Funding Information

This research is supported by the U.S. DOE, Office of Science, BER program, and Advanced Scientific Computing Research program under contract number DE-AC02-05CH11231.