Are the west Texas rangelands barren?

Driving through west Texas, you would think that the windmills are all there is to see. Flat, desert-like landscape is not what you expect the highest producing region of beef cattle and cotton in the United States to look like. Through the years, producers in this region have found a way to create life despite … Continue reading Are the west Texas rangelands barren?

Can the parts of plants we can see help predict the parts of them we can’t?

There’s a lot we can tell about plants by looking at them. We can see their leaves, stems and overall structure. If it’s a flowering plant, we can see them, too. But we can’t see what the roots look like under the ground, like root depth or structure. Our research team decided to study if … Continue reading Can the parts of plants we can see help predict the parts of them we can’t?

How can farmers grow crops in more coarse soils?

Particles of sandy soils generally have a mean diameter between 0.05mm and 2mm. They are the largest of soil particle types – the smaller particles are called silt and clay. A soil that is good for farming consists of a mixture of these particles, allowing for healthy crops. Loam is a particularly good type of … Continue reading How can farmers grow crops in more coarse soils?

What is the impact of fire on desert soils of Nevada?

The cold desert lands of Northern Nevada are plagued with wildfire annually. These can start from natural causes like lightning strikes, or human activities like camping fire. The fires in the semi-arid rangelands cause immediate and long-term changes to the ecosystem. Studies show fire can cause permanent changes to soil physical, chemical, and microbial communities. … Continue reading What is the impact of fire on desert soils of Nevada?

How is San Antonio reducing its solid waste?

Last year, a group of agronomists and soil scientists toured several locations in San Antonio that highlight some new programs and services. Composting can help reduce waste and solve landfill problems. Urban agriculture can reduce the amounts of food deserts and make good use of open urban land. Let’s look at what San Antonio is … Continue reading How is San Antonio reducing its solid waste?

How are wetland plants and soils different from drier soils?

Wetlands provide a wide range of services, such as water purification, wildlife habitat, and flood control. But what exactly is a wetland? Wetlands are transitional zones between land and aquatic ecosystems. Wetlands are characterized by three things: saturation, the presence of hydric (low-oxygen) soils, and hydrophytic (water-loving) plants. Let’s explain these one by one! Saturation … Continue reading How are wetland plants and soils different from drier soils?

What is a dung beetle?

Dung beetles are biologically classified as members of the order Coleoptera which includes all true beetles. They have rounded features and hardened forewings that usually have pronounced, parallel ridges. Their front legs are often modified for digging. Most dung beetles have a shiny appearance and may be black, brown, or green in color. These creatures … Continue reading What is a dung beetle?

Why is testing for soil microbes important?

 Soil microbes like bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes are important for many reasons. They help move nutrients to and from the soil. They help with plant growth. They even help make substances that hold soil particles in aggregates, which helps the stability of soil. These microbes are small but exist in large numbers in soil. Soil … Continue reading Why is testing for soil microbes important?

What type of insects live in soil?

There are a vast array of insects living in soils – and they have important jobs! Ants are fascinating as they create small trails in soils. They transport rocks, leaves, and wood, and anything with a manageable size, weight, and form. Seriously, insects are witty enough to conquer all the habitats around the planet, except … Continue reading What type of insects live in soil?

How are oysters farmed – and what’s the effect on subaqueous soils?

These days, oyster aquaculture is stirring up the conventional definition of agriculture. But exactly how does one grow a crop of oysters? More specifically, how are soils involved in this underwater process? Let’s start by outlining a few key concepts. “Aquaculture” is the farming of aquatic plants and/or animals for food. Oyster aquaculture has a … Continue reading How are oysters farmed – and what’s the effect on subaqueous soils?