Plant and Soil

, Volume 342, Issue 1–2, pp 165–171 | Cite as

Phytolith occluded carbon and silica variability in wheat cultivars

  • Jeffrey F. ParrEmail author
  • Leigh A. Sullivan
Regular Article


Phytolith Occluded Carbon (PhytOC) has recently been demonstrated to be an important long-term terrestrial carbon fraction. The aim of this study was to examine the rates of silica accumulation and carbon bio-sequestered within the silica phytoliths of the leaf and stem material of wheat (Triticum sp.) cultivars. The phytolith content of 53 wheat cultivars sourced from 25 countries around the world and grown on a single trial site was first isolated and the PhytOC content then determined. The data shows that the phytolith occluded carbon content of the wheat cultivars ranged from 0.06% to 0.60% of dry leaf and stem biomass: a range of 1,000%. The data also demonstrates that it is the efficiency by which carbon is encapsulated within silica rather than the quantity of silica accumulated by the plant that is the most important factor in determining the relative PhytOC yields. The potential phytolith carbon bio-sequestration rates in the leaf and stem components of these wheat cultivars ranged up to 0.246 t-e-CO2 ha−1y−1. These phytolith carbon bio-sequestration rates indicate a substantial potential (~50 million t-e-CO2 y−1) exists for increasing the rate of secure carbon bio-sequestration in wheat crops using existing cultivars.


Plant silica Soil organic carbon Phytoliths PhytOC Terrestrial carbon sequestration Occluded carbon Organic matter decomposition 



The research reported here has been supported the Australian Research Council, the Australian Institute for Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Southern Cross Geoscience at Southern Cross University. We also wish to thank Maree Blewitt and Mitchell Sullivan for their assistance with laboratory work and John Sheppard for the supply of the international wheat seed, Loraine Watson and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries for the crop trial.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern Cross GeoScienceSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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