Can solar power provide more than clean energy?

Read the full story from Argonne National Laboratory.

Climate change contributed to many deadly and costly disasters in recent years. As the U.S. looks to combat climate change, solar energy is increasingly seen as a large part of the answer. However, ground-mounted solar facilities occupy large areas of land. What will that land and soil be like after 30 or more years of use for generating clean power?

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are partnering with collaborators from other national laboratories and state, academic and private institutions to examine that question. DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office recently selected Argonne to lead a new project to better understand the changes that will occur in soils. The team will study what happens when past harmful practices such as pesticide use and annual tilling are stopped, the land under and around solar panels is allowed to rest and, in some cases, is planted with native grasses and wildflowers. The project is a part of the Deploying Solar with Wildlife and Ecosystem Services Benefits (SolWEB) funding program.

Soil Carbon Moonshot: Grounding Carbon Storage in Science

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The Soil Carbon Moonshot spells out a major transformation for the agriculture sector that has so far gone unarticulated and underfunded at the federal level: A farmer-driven research agenda steered by a powerful coalition of policymakers, farmers and ranchers, and innovators to catalyze agricultural climate solutions at scale. Together, recommendations in this report seek to advance the next generation of agricultural climate solutions and support farmers in making the best operational decisions for their land, bottom lines, and the climate.

Soil quality critical to help some U.S. crops weather heat stress from climate change

Read the full story from Emory University.

The results singled out growing-degree days as the most important climatic factor and water holding capacity as the most influential soil property for crop-yield variability.

Throwing around worms and dirt to make the Coorong healthier

Read the full story in Cosmos.

The Coorong lagoon, at the end of the Murray River in South Australia, has faced a tough few decades as successive droughts have made the water saltier and more difficult for threatened species to live in.

But a new technique, developed by a collaboration of half a dozen different institutions, has just been shown to improve the health of the lagoon floor (its benthic health).

It involves adding more dirt – and some worms – from healthier areas, to kickstart a process called “bioturbation”.

“Bioturbation is pretty simple,” explains Dr Orlando Lam-Gordillo, a researcher at Flinders University and lead author on a paper describing the research, which is published in Science of the Total Environment.

Cover crops not enough to improve soil after decades of continuous corn

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Although about 20% of Illinois cropping systems are planted to continuous corn, it’s nearly impossible to find fields planted this way for decades at a time. Yet long-term experiments, including over 40 years of continuous corn under different nitrogen fertilizer rates, provide incredible learning opportunities and soil management lessons for researchers and farmers alike.

Midwestern US has lost 57.6 billion metric tons of soil due to agricultural practices

Read the full story from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A new study in the journal Earth’s Future led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that, since Euro-American settlement approximately 160 years ago, agricultural fields in the midwestern U.S. have lost, on average, two millimeters of soil per year. This is nearly double the rate of erosion that the USDA considers sustainable. Furthermore, USDA estimates of erosion are between three and eight times lower than the figures reported in the study. Finally, the study’s authors conclude that plowing, rather than the work of wind and water, is the major culprit. 

U of I study maps lead in Chicago soils

Read the full story at Farm Week.

New soil sampling work from the University of Illinois and Illinois Extension revealed elevated lead in parkways and backyards across Chicago. Every sample measured lead above the naturally occurring level of 20 parts per million (ppm), according to the study. And the median value across the city’s parkways was 11 times that amount or 220 ppm.

Bioenergy sorghum’s roots can replenish carbon in soil

Read the full story from Texas A&M AgriLife Communications.

The world faces an increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a shortage of carbon in the soil. However, bioenergy sorghum can provide meaningful relief from both problems, according to a new study.

How you make a map of the trillions of miles of invisible fungus networks that give our soil life

Read the full story at Fast Company.

A network of mycelium runs through all the world’s dirt, helping plants grow and sequestering carbon. A massive citizen science project to visualize these ‘coral reefs of the soil’ is designed to help efforts to save it.

Livestock antibiotics and rising temperatures disrupt soil microbial communities

Read the full story from the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies.

Community ecologists investigated the interactive effects of rising temperatures and a common livestock antibiotic on soil microbes. The research team found that heat and antibiotics disrupt soil microbial communities — degrading soil microbe efficiency, resilience to future stress, and ability to trap carbon.