March 2010 Archive: Soil News


These news stories, which concern soil and soil-related topics, have been gathered from various sources on the Internet.  I try to pick one article each day to highlight. Sometimes I will select two articles. Sometimes it will be a slow news day and I won’t find any to highlight.  The full articles are located off of this site. Click on the title to see the full article. I will keep links on this page for about a month. View the Archive for a list of older articles.

Soil Exhibition Inspires (Newswise, 31 Mar 10)

The eighteen month exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History “Dig It! The Secrets of Soil” helped the Soil Science Society of American learn more about itself while it was exploring ways to bring soil education to the public. The goal of the exhibit is to inspire people to change their preconceived notions about soil rather than teach them technical soil knowledge.

Measuring The Stability Of Organic Waste (Water Online, 30 Mar 10)

A composting research group at Autonomous University of Barcelona investigated different methodologies for measuring the stability of organic waste. The study analyzed microbial respiration in samples of food and garden wastes, municipal solid wastes, and sludge. Different respiration indices were established based on how fast microorganisms consume oxygen and the amount of oxygen consumed.

Safeguarding agricultural land could be critical – report (The Royal Gazette, 29 Mar 10)

Farming was once the mainstay of the local economy in Bermuda. There were 1214 hectares under cultivation in 1912. Bermuda was a major exporter of vegetables to the US until the 1930s. Now agriculture contributes only one percent to the local economy with land lost to development and the arrival of improved refrigerated transport systems.

Tunisian and Egyptian farmers cooperate in biodiversity efforts (Al-Masry Al-Youm, 28 Mar 10)

Why is biodiversity important? How does agricultural biodiversity protect against soil salinity, plant disease and desertification? Do these environmental concerns really matter when taking into consideration market demands for high crop productivity and profitability? How sustainable are market-driven methods of farming? These questions, along with a host of others, were addressed during a two-day workshop and field study in Minya on 24 and 25 March.

Even soil feels the heat (Science Centric, 25 Mar 10)

An article in the new issue of Nature states that the Earth has gotten warmer and plants and microbes in the soil have given off more carbon dioxide. Soil respiration has increased one-tenth of 1 percent per year since 1989. This data will help scientists build a better model of carbon cycles throughout the Earth.

Beyond the Dust Bowl: Challenges in Soil and Water Conservation (Newswise, 24 Mar 10)

This is a review of a new book, Soil and Water Conservation Advances in the United States, which explores the history of conservation, the current situation, and the future of conservation research. Chapters are devoted to specific geographic regions and explore how agricultural practices must change in the future. Also covered are major issues, research recommendations, and government programs.

Earth worm teaches importance of soil (The Progressor Times, 23 Mar 10)

This article talks about S.K. Worm, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service mascot. S.k. Worm is a six-foot tall animatronics model that emerges from a detailed soil monolith that shows soil layers, structure, color, rocks, animals and artifacts. The model moves and talks. It is available for rental by educators and other groups.

Dormant microbes promote diversity, serve environment (e! Science News, 22 Mar 10)

Scientists at Michigan State University used a mathematical model and molecular tools to study the effect of microbe dormancy on the biodiversity of natural microbial communities. When microbes go dormant, they enter a state of low metabolic activity. This generally happens during stressful conditions and they will come out of dormancy when environmental conditions become more favorable.

Bringing efficiency home (Allentown Morning Call, 21 Mar 10)

Expo at Northampton Community College shows the latest ways your home can be more earth-friendly. In addition to solar panels and energy efficient windows, other items included kitchen countertops made of recycled paper, bamboo floors, cork floors, LED recessed lights, and concrete that allows water to penetrate into the soil.

Bridging Gaps in Climate Studies (ScienceMatters@Berkeley, 20 Mar 10)

Berkeley professor of statistics Cari Kaufman is helping researchers at Duke University study the effect of climate change on forest dynamics. Duke scientists have stream flow and rainfall data going back many decades but the soil moisture data was gathered recently in a few widely-scattered places. Kaufman uses the data the scientists do have to make inferences about the data they don’t have.

Climate Change Impact on Water Already Affects Nations Worldwide (Media Newswire, 19 Mar 10)

People worldwide are feeling the effects of global warming on their water supplies as temperature increases begin to alter the land-sea-atmosphere water cycle. The water cycle has a critical role in the chemical, physical, and biological processes that sustain ecosystems and influence Earth’s climate.

The Global Food Market (VIDEO): Why Do Some Eat Well While Others Starve? (Huffington Post, 18 Mar 10)

This informative little video explains how the import-export distribution system complicates the process of getting food to the people who need it, while leaving other areas of the globe with an excess of food. The video makes the case that this could be simplified by focusing on the local food production. The video runs about 9 minutes.

Prior Herbicide Use—Not Irrigation—is Critical to Herbicide Efficacy (USDA – Agricultural Research Services, 17 Mar 10)

Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service and Colorado State University have found that the choice of crop sequences and the history of herbicide use are more critical to herbicide efficacy and environmental safety than the timing and amount of irrigation water used. Previous applications of herbicide can cause herbicide to dissipate more rapidly from the soil, causing a loss of weed control.

Soil biodiversity: functions, threats and tools for policy makers (European Commission, 16 Mar 10)

The European Commission contracted this report since 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and since there is increasing attention on the importance of soil. This report covers the soil biodiversity, the contributions of soil to the ecosystem, and the relevance of soil to the sustainability of human society.

Sewage Sludge Builds Organic Matter in Depleted Soils (Newswise, 15 Mar 10)

While sewage sludge can be a source of toxic metals and pathogenic organisms, it is also a good source of plant nutrients and soil organic matter. This can be especially important in tropical regions where organic matter decomposition is accelerated. Researchers at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation analyzed the impacts of sewage sludge applications on soil organic matter.

School Gardens: Teaching the Next Generation Where Real Food Comes From (Huffington Post, 14 Mar 10)

Annie Spiegelman talks about her experience volunteering with the school garden. Students learned about plant anatomy, food webs, decomposition, pollination, and soil organisms. They also took part in gardening tasks such as composting, pruning, weeding, watering, and planting.

Lake Erie water quality worsening (Monroe Evening News, 13 Mar 2010)

The health of Lake Erie is threatened by farm-related and other runoff and climate change. Phosphorus pollution from runoff has led to bright green toxic algae blooms in recent years. The algae form during the warm months due to a combination of phosphorus and sediment from runoff that keeps sunlight from killing the blooms.

Lawmakers, voters should help reduce global warming (K-State Collegian, 12 Mar 2010)

A recent Gallup poll indicated that Americans are increasingly skeptical about global warming and its effects. This can be bad news for the development of new legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This rising skepticism is occurring in spite of increasing evidence of human-caused climate change.

Magazine survey finds Taiwan environmentally fragile (Focus Taiwan New Channel, 11 Mar 2010)

Last August, Typhoon Morakot brought more than 1.2 billion cubic meters of soft sediment down from higher ground. Taiwan’s soil is soft and vulnerable to flooding and mudslides. Much of this silt and mud that was brought down by the typhoon is stuck in mountainous regions. This can cause mudflows and other disasters when typhoons or downpours hit the area in the future.

Combat carbon emissions with legumes (Stock and Land, 10 Mar 2010)

Scientists are encouraging the planting of legumes in rotation with grains in order to reduce carbon emissions and reduce energy use. These changes would reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions. While no-till management has only a marginal effect on carbon sequestration, it does reduce energy use.

Compost and climate change: how they are related (The Guardian, 9 Mar 2010)

In the past 40 years, peat-based compost has become a popular growing medium, mulch, and soil improving. Our addiction to peat not only destroys valuable habitats but also contributes to climate change. Peat bogs are huge carbon sponges. When the peat is extracted, the carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Sources of Pollution in Waterways (American Society of Agronomy, 8 Mar 10)

A group of scientists funded by the New York Academy of Sciences has found that stormwater runoff is the main source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) pollutants in the New York/New Jersey harbor. Other sources considered were tributaries, atmospheric deposition, wastewater treatment plant discharges, combined sewer overflows, and storm water runoff. Stormwater runoff contributed about half of the total load. Atmospheric deposition was important for smaller PAH compounds.

Economic value of nature ‘still invisible’, says UN (EurActiv, 8 Mar 10)

The United Nations is attempting to construct an initiative that puts a price on nature such as soil, forest, or fresh water. It is hoped this initiative will convince policymakers to implement a “polluter pays” principle to protect nature. Currently our economic systems are not geared to defending or preserving anything that does not have economic value.

Simple steps can reduce risk of exposure to lead (The Province, 7 Mar 10)

This article discusses the sources and how to reduce lead exposure, especially for children. Two primary sources of lead exposure for children are soil and household dust. The article also describes some symptoms of lead exposure.

Soil develops slowly but can be lost quickly (The Chatham Daily News, 5 Mar 10)

This is a nice, basic little overview of soil. The formation of soil from rocks, minerals, plants, and animals is covered. This leads to a description of soil composition, soil profiles, and leaching. Finally it covers soil erosion caused by wind and rain as well as soil erosion caused by human activities.

Shifting Soil Threatens Homes’ Foundations (New York Times, 4 Mar 10)

Extended wet or dry periods can have a big effect on the soil beneath buildings. Clay soils will shrink during droughts and swell during floods. This can cause buildings to sink or push upward. Sandy soil loses its adhesive properties during dry weather, causing it to pull away from the foundations. Heavy rains will cause it to shift to collapse beneath the building.

Organic basics (CHealth on Canoe.ca, 3 Mar 10)

This article defines the term “organic” and gives a basic overview of organic food and farming. The article also emphasizes that the term “organic” refers to a system of farming and does not have specific claims to the health, nutrition and safety of the food.

Weed killer ‘castrates’ male frogs, study says (CNN, 2 Mar 10)

A new study conducted by biologists at the University of California-Berkeley has found that low levels of atrazine emasculated three-quarters of laboratory male frogs and turned one in 10 into females. While Syngenta, the Swiss company that is the largest manufacturer of atrazine, has disputed the validity of the study, some scientists feel the study is valid. Atrazine is a favorite herbicide for corn, sorghum and sugarcane farmers.

Number of bugs in Britain’s soil rises by nearly 50% in 10 years (The Guardian, 1 Mar 10)

British soil scientists have estimated that there are 12.8 quadrillion living organisms (that’s 10 metric tons) in the top 3 inches (8 cm) of soil. What’s unusual is that this is an increase of 50 percent over the past decade. At the same time, the diversity of organisms in the soil has decreased. These changes are most likely due to the rise in temperatures and rainfall over the past decade, leading to warmer and wetter summers.


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