Category: Soil science

How adding rock dust to soil could help get carbon into the ground

Read the full story at e360.

Researchers are finding that when pulverized rock is applied to agricultural fields, the soil pulls far more carbon from the air and crop yields increase. More studies are underway, but some scientists say this method shows significant benefits for farmers and the climate.

Bringing Europe’s soils back to life

This month’s Horizon Magazine takes a look at soils, a critical resource that is often overlooked, in every sense of the word. The stories include:

Smartphone cameras offer smallholder farmers promising new access to soil health knowledge

Read the full story from the African Plant Nutrition Institute.

The lack of adequate access to effective soil fertility testing in India, and much of the subtropical and tropical world, has led a group of scientists to explore how a smartphone camera might be transformed into a powerful and readily available alternative. Recently published in the Elsevier journal Biosystems Engineering, the research team describes important advances in the area of image-based soil organic matter (SOM) assessment and how it can streamline the process of evaluating soil fertility.

How soil health practices boost the bottom line

Read the full story at Successful Farming.

Farmers who use practices that improve soil health also save input costs and are more profitable.

That’s the bottom line from a study of 100 farmers in nine top corn and soybean producing states that researchers from the nonprofit Soil Health Institute (SHI) conducted, with support from Cargill, Inc.

For Illinois farmers, proof of cover crops’ benefits is in the soil

Read the full story in the News-Gazette.

Cover crops and soil health are what drew about 50 other farmers to a Nutrient Stewardship Field Day put on last week by the Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau at Mark Monier’s farm. It was the third of nine such events this summer being conducted by Illinois Farm Bureau and numerous partners.

Researchers strengthen soil using environmentally-friendly bacterial ‘glue’

Read the full story in the Daily Evergreen.

Slimy layers of bacteria called biofilms can act as an environmentally-friendly glue to improve the strength of soil, according to a WSU study published in the journal Biofilm. 

By-product from beer industry can be used to improve soil health

Read the full story at European Scientist.

By-products from the beer industry can be used in agriculture to improve soil quality and increase crop yields, according to a study published by a team of Spanish researchers. The team is keen to explore what other types of waste can be used in a similar manner.

Earthworms could help reduce antibiotic resistance genes in soil

Read the full story from the American Chemical Society.

Earthworms improve the soil by aerating it, breaking down organic matter and mineralizing nutrients. Now, researchers have dug up another possible role: reducing the number and relative abundance of antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs) in soils from diverse ecosystems. These results imply that earthworms could be a natural, sustainable solution to addressing the global issue of antibiotic resistance, the researchers say.

New evidence shows fertile soil gone from Midwestern farms

Read the full story from Minnesota Public Radio.

Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America’s Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared.

The most fertile topsoil is entirely gone from a third of all the land devoted to growing crops across the upper Midwest, the scientists say. Some of their colleagues, however, remain skeptical about the methods that produced this result.

The new study emerged from a simple observation, one that people flying over Midwestern farms can confirm for themselves. The color of bare soil varies, and that variation is related to soil quality.

Soil health pays off

Read the full story at the Capital Press.

A walk around McIntyre Family Farms reveals a different kind of operation than it was 12 years ago.

Back then, the farm produced 3,500 acres of alfalfa forage and corn, wheat and beans.

Then in 2009, the McIntyres started down a different path, one following regenerative, nature-mimicking practices and focusing on soil health.

In 2013, they added cattle and free-range laying hens, followed by pigs, turkeys, meat chickens and ducks.

Brad McIntyre, 38, says the previous iteration of his family’s farm, which also does business as McIntyre Pastures, focused too much on yield, and the soil suffered because of it.

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