The secret’s in the soil: Can soil organic matter protect crops from drought?

Global climate change means that droughts are becoming more frequent and intense in many agricultural areas. Recent evidence suggests that the secret to protecting crops against drought may lie beneath our feet – read on to learn more about how farmers can manage their soil as a way to help protect their crops against droughts!

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From Food Waste to Roadways: Using Compost to Improve Soil Conditions and Tree Success Along Highways

Planting trees along highway roadsides is a good way to increase tree coverage in cities, but getting trees to grow here and maintaining these plantings over time can be difficult. Reducing soil compaction and adding organic material, such as compost, can improve roadside soils and support tree growth in these areas. A 5-year study in Ontario recently found that loosening up the soil and mixing in 10-25% food waste compost relative to soil can help improve tree growth along roadsides, possibly reducing the need to follow up and maintain these trees over time.

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A Matter of Mulch: Restoring Post-Fire Pine Forests in the Western United States

Following severe fires, forest soils can erode, depositing sediment into nearby waterways after it rains and threatening local water quality as a result. Mulch is often used to reduce soil erosion in forests following wildfire. Following the High Park Fire in Colorado, scientists tested several types of mulch to determine which was most effective. Thanks to this study, we now know that wood mulch is better than wheat-straw mulch at promoting the return of pine trees and excluding non-native species from taking over, while also stabilizing the soil, probably because wood mulch persists longer and holds more moisture.

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How Pre-Industrial Charcoal Changed the Soils Under Our Feet

Tragically, when some people look at the soil beneath our feet, they only see ‘dirt’. They are missing the fact that soils contribute so much to nature and our lives. But, what happens when humans alter soils from their natural state? Researchers from Cottbus, Germany, aimed to find out how charcoal production in the Northeastern US during the mid 1800s impacted the soils and ecology of the forests that we see today. Surprisingly, the answer is a little bit below the surface.

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Making Amends with Wetland Soils

Wetlands provide ecosystem services, which are services that are free to humans and extremely valuable to the environment. In particular, wetlands can improve water quality through denitrification. Denitrification eliminates nitrate, a nitrogenous compound often found in pollutants, by converting it into gaseous forms of nitrogen and emitting these gases into the atmosphere. Because of the wetland losses happening largely due to human activity, efforts are being made to restore wetlands in an attempt to recapture the ecosystem services they provide. Recent research has investigated the capacity of restored wetland soils to perform denitrification compared to that of natural wetland soils.

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Can soil help remove antibiotics from wastewater effluent?

Antibiotics are finding their way into surface waters via wastewater effluent where they pose a threat to the environment and organisms including humans. Many wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove antibiotics. This study explores the use of soil to reduce the amount of antibiotics that enter the environment.

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