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Hess is donating $50 million over the next five years to the Salk Institute's Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI), which aims to combat climate change by developing plants' natural ability to capture and store potentially billions of tons of carbon per year from the atmosphere.

In 2020, Hess donated $12.5 million to accelerate development of plant-based carbon capture and storage through the institute's two programs: CO2 Removal on a Planetary Scale (CRoPS) and Coastal Plant Restoration (CPR). The CRoPS programme aims to increase suberin content – a carbon rich polymer found in plant roots – in common crops such as wheat, rice and corn with the goal to absorb and store significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. The CPR project is focused on restoration and preservation of wetlands, which are significant carbon sinks. The project aims to develop wetland plants that can hold carbon, purify water, preserve land and thrive in challenging environments around the world.

Since then, the HPI team has made numerous advances in enhancing desired plant traits, including deeper rooting and the ability to sequester carbon, and is rapidly scaling discoveries from laboratory to greenhouse to field.

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