April 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.

USDA releases new soil erosion data (Southeast Farm Press, 30 Apr 10)

The recent National Resource Inventory for Non-Federal Lands shows a significant reduction in soil erosion on cropland and dramatic increase in developed acreage. Soil erosion declined by more than 40 percent during the past 25 years. On the other hand, more than one-third of all development of U.S. land occurred during the same time frame.

Rare Species Of Earthworm Found In Washington (Red Orbit, 29 Apr 10)

Scientists have found two living specimens of the giant Palouse earthworm near Spokane, Washington. The Palouse earthworm, or Driloleirus americanus, is a pinkish-white worm about 10 inches long. The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grant endangered species status to the rare worm.

Keys to understanding the science of soil (Comox Valley Record, 28 Apr 10)

This article emphasizes that the best thing you can do for your garden is to improve your soil. The plants in your garden will only be as healthy as the soil they are grow in. The article describes soil structure and chemistry and how to improve your soil for plant growth. It’s a nice one page summary of soil science.

Soil Microbes Produce Less Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Than Expected With Climate Warming (National Science Foundation, 27 Apr 10)

Researchers at the University of California Irvine, Colorado State University, and Yale University have determined that soil microorganisms aren’t accelerating global warming in the way scientists had predicted. It has been assumed that climate warming would cause fungi and bacteria to consume soil carbon more rapidly, accelerate their growth, and accelerate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Instead these microbes increase carbon dioxide emissions initially but then they overheat and grow more slowly.

How grass buffers keep agricultural herbicides at bay (PhysOrg.com, 26 Apr 10)

Researchers from the University of Quebec found that grass or grass/tree buffer strips reduced herbicide concentrations in runoff, but the movement of herbicides through subsurface filtration increased. This resulted in an overall loss of herbicides before reaching a body of water.

Helping The NRC Look Below The Surface (RedOrbit, 25 Apr 10)

Soil scientists from the Agricultural Research Service are helping the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission model the movement of radioactive materials in the soil. The findings from these studies will be used to fine tune the risk assessment studies that are needed in the development of commercial nuclear facilities.

Oxfam: Climate Change Devastating Ethiopian Rural Communities (Voice of America, 24 Apr 10)

An Oxfam International report “The Rain Doesn’t Come on Time Anymore” details how climate change is increasing poverty, water scarcity, and food insecurity among Ethiopia’s rural communities. Climate change has brought an increase in variability of the country’s weather patterns. Plus over the past four decades, Ethiopia’s average annual temperature has increased by more than two degrees Fahrenheit.

Fungal Disease Spreads Through Pacific Northwest (NPR, 23 Apr 10)

A rare and dangerous fungus by the name of Cryptococcus gatti has been spreading from British Columbia south to the Pacific Northwest. The fungus is carried in the air and can infect people and animals. The fungus prefers trees and soil in forests. Many of those infected had forestry or construction jobs, but many others did not have a connection.

Simple actions at home improve the environment (iStockAnalyst, 22 Apr 10)

This probably isn’t the usual type of article found in iStockAnalyst, but it’s a nice summary of actions you can take in your home yard and garden to help the environment. The article is an outline of a workshop. It lists actions you can take, why it matters, and how to do it.

Earth Day is about recovering the environment and the economy (Idaho Statesman, 21 Apr 10)

Forty years ago, the late Senator Gaylord Nelson gave birth to Earth Day. Today NoAA is celebrating how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping to make immediate and long-term investments in the environment and economic health.

Cuban scientist wins U.S.-based environmental prize (Reuters, 20 Apr 10)

Humberto Rios, a musician and agricultural scientist, has won the US-based Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s biggest award for grassroots environmentalism. Rios and five other activists will receive $150,000. Rios won his prize for promoting a return to more traditional farming techniques using seed diversity, crop rotation, and organic pest control and fertilizers. He also performs folk and salsa songs at local events promoting biodiversity and good environmental practices.

Food waste used for campus gardens, compost project aims to help environment and save CMU money (Central Michigan Life, 19 Apr 10)

The Student Environmental Alliance at Central Michigan University picks up production waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings from the Dining Hall and place them in a compost pile at the campus garden. The waste is then covered with wood chips, straw and grass clippings to help break it down into nutrient-rich soil. It gives the university a free source of soil and cuts down the cost of shipping waste to a landfill.

We know what’s in it, but not how soil’s affected (Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald, 18 Apr 10)

The use of animal manure as a fertilizer is an old practice. Using human waste, or biosolids, as a fertilizer is a controversial practice in North America. Part of the problem is the wide range of pathogens, metals, and other chemicals that go down our drains and toilets. Even though regulations limit their levels in biosolids, the risk of toxins ending up in our food and soil is still too high. The article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the practice of putting biosolids on soil.

Digging Up The Dirt (Calgary Herald, 17 Apr 10)

To celebrate Earth Week, the Calgary Herald reviews the PBS movie “Dirt! The Movie”. The movie premiered on April 20 on the PBS Series Independent Lens. The movie makes the point that soil is alive and soil has the capability to turn garbage into a garden. The movie also states that only 20 percent of the nitrogen fertilizers that are applied to soil in conventional gardening or agriculture are actually taken up by plants. The rest ends up in groundwater, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Biodegradable Mulch Project Merges Textile Science and Agriculture (Western Farmer-Stockman, 16 Apr 10)

The Washington State University Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles is helping to research biodegradable agricultural mulch that could be used as an alternative to the costly and environmentally-detrimental plastic that is used today. the Textile Research Lab is testing the intrinsic qualities of fabric and plastic mulches.

Carbon in warming soil could accelerate climate change: Study (The Montreal Gazette, 14 Apr 10)

A study reported in the journal Nature by Ben Bond-Lamberty and Allison Thomson has found that Warming soils in Canada’s north are releasing a vast store of carbon that has been inert for millennia. This release of carbon from the soils in the world’s tundra and northern boreal forests could further accelerate the rate of climate change by creating a positive feedback loop.

Agriculture Department seeds the way for ‘people’s gardens’ (The Washington Post, 13 Apr 10)

Last year US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack created an organic garden in part of a parking lot. He also challenged other USDA facilities to create a People’s Garden. So far 255 gardens have been established worldwide. The food from these gardens is donated to food pantries and soup kitchens.

Dust Bowl lessons offer hope for environment (The Capital Times, 12 Apr 2010)

April 14 marked the 75th anniversary of the Dust Bowl. Heat, drought, wind, and poor farming practices came together to produce massive dust clouds that moved soil across North America. This year is also the 75th anniversary of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Dust Bowl and the NRCS changed the way people cared for the land. Windbreaks, cover crops, and no-tillage farming are a few of the techniques that have come out of soil conservation.

‘Food hero’ says to value soil, not oil (South Bend Tribune, 11 Apr 2010)

In a recent speech, Vandana Shiva said that feeding ourselves has become like warfare. There have been recent riots due to increasing food prices and conflicts erupting when industrial farming companies displace traditional farmers. She also pointed out that industrial farming is much more wasteful than ecological farming.

Climatologist Warns Of Epic Drought (KOCO.com, 10 Apr 2010)

A climatologist believes that climate change could create a drought similar to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Since the climate is already dry in Oklahoma, even a small jump in the average temperature could cause an increase in water evaporation. A prolonged drought could linger for the majority of a decade.

21 critical future NASA missions (Network World, 9 Apr 2010)

This article describes 21 new and ongoing NASA projects included in its 2011 budget. Included in the list are several environmental-related projects. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission will measure CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project will collect land, ocean, and atmospheric data. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission will track land use and change. The Soil Moisture Active and Passive satellite will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw condition.

Grazing Cattle Reduce Some Greenhouse Gases (Time, 8 Apr 2010)

A recent study in Nature shows that in some locations, animal grazing reduces N2o emissions. In a research study in Inner Mongolia, grazed land trapped less snow, driving subsurface temperatures below zero. The soil microbes which emit N2O can’t survive at the these temperatures. The ungrazed grass, on the other hand, is taller and retains more of an insulating blanket of snow. When spring arrives, the ungrazed land has more microbes that emit N2O than the grazed land has.

Biodynamic farmers connect to earth’s rhythms (The Associated Press, 7 Apr 10)

Biodynamic farming is a holistic farming philosophy that views land as a self-contained living organism, and is sometimes called “organic-plus”. In addition to rejecting chemicals, farming is done according to the phases of the moon and the alignment of the planets. Soil preparation are made with manure that’s been stored in cow horns, buried for a season, and then mixed with water and sprayed on the land.

Cellulosic Ethanol Dealt a Blow (Discovery News, 6 Apr 10)

New research from Kansas State University has found that cellulosic ethanol is not good for the environment. Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel made from inedible plant parts such as agricultural plant residue. The Kansas State University study points out that only a small fraction of the residue is available for removal, and therefore not economically feasible. This residue is also important because it sequesters carbon and keeps the soil healthy.

Shrinking Aral Sea underscores need for urgent action on environment – Ban (UN News Centre, 5 Apr 10)

The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest lake. Now in recent decades it has shrunk by more than 70 percent after tributary rivers were diverted to irrigation projects. The salinity of the region’s soil has soared and the area is heavily polluted. Where there was once a vast lake, now there is only a cemetery of marooned ships.

Challenges in soil and water conservation (Environmental Expert, 5 Apr 10)

This is a press release on the new book “Soil and Water Conservation Advances in the United States” edited by Drs. Ted Zobeck and William Schillinger. Authors from each region of the continental United States describe the history of soil and water conservation in the last century, the current situation, and suggest the outlook for the future.

Ready, set … think about your garden! (The Weston Town Crier, 3 Apr 10)

I like this article for its good, non-technical information on gardening. It is worth reading for this sentence along, “Great soil is brown and crumbly.” It gives great advice like noticing what worked last year and do more of that. The advice is aimed toward Massachusetts residents but much of the advice would be appropriate for most locations.

ZIMBABWE: ‘Farming God’s Way’ (InterPress Service News Agency, 2 Apr 10)

Conservation tillage has paid off for one woman farmer in Zimbabwe. The Sustainable Agriculture Trust introduced conservation agriculture in 2007. The method involves planting crops in small basins or holes which reduces disturbance of the soil and saves time, money, and energy. Other techniques that were introduced were mulching and crop rotation.

The Great and Lowly Earthworm (Midwest AGNet, 1 Apr 10)

This article briefly discusses the importance of earthworms, worm compost bins, and authors who have discussed earthworms. A lot of emphasis is place on Charles Darwin’s decades of earthworm studies.


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