Tiny volcanic rocks used as fertiliser on North East fields can increase crop growth by more than 20 per cent.

That is according to Newcastle University researchers who uncovered this ground-breaking discovery.

It also demonstrates the significant carbon capture potential of the process, potentially playing a vital role in addressing climate concerns.

According to a recently-published academic paper, the use of basalt rock on farmland via a process termed Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) could increase agricultural productivity, capture carbon and reduce the amount of harmful phosphates reaching our waterways.

David Manning, professor of science at Newcastle University and co-author of the study, led the research team.

Throughout a year of intensive field testing, the researchers examined the potential of ERW, which could provide farmers with a much-needed profitability boost while enhancing the quality of their land.

Hexham Courant:

Mr Manning said: "Crop yields can be increased by up to 22% just by spreading these tiny pieces of basalt rock on fields".

He added that basalt, a volcanic rock that would usually take thousands of years to disintegrate, is quickly reduced to tiny chips under enhanced weathering conditions.

Rainfall then accelerates the breakdown, releasing minerals that maintain soil pH and improving the quality of crops.

However, from an environmental perspective, one of the most significant findings is that basalt is capable of absorbing substantial amounts of atmospheric carbon, potentially making a major contribution to combating climate change if adopted at scale.

Basalt is abundant, often seen as a by-product of quarrying work, according to Dr XinRan Liu of UNDO, who co-authored the paper with Mr Manning.

This fact, combined with the potential to profoundly increase carbon sequestration rates, has led UNDO to offer basalt chips to farmers free of charge, in an attempt to promote its widespread use.

Hexham Courant: Newcastle University researchers found it can increase crop growth by more than 20 per cent

Mr Liu said: "Emission reductions are vital in the fight against climate change but they aren’t enough - we need to remove carbon from the atmosphere too.

"Basalt is a perfect, nature-based solution".

Jez Wardman, who co-authored the paper, noted: "Farmers can be funny - they’re custodians of their land and tend to be very protective of it and not given to quick adoption of new techniques".