What can we learn about agricultural practices from soil archives?

Have you ever matched a paint sample to an older color? Paint stores keep quite a variety of color samples. Crop scientists keep seeds in seed banks for comparison and research. Soil scientists do the same with soil samples, stored in archives. Soil changes with time. In fact, soil is a dynamic source of nutrients, … Continue reading What can we learn about agricultural practices from soil archives?

Are there soil microbes under my fingernails?

If you’ve been gardening without gloves lately, then the answer is probably “yes.” But that is, for the most part, a good thing – besides having to clean your hands! In garden soil there are millions to billions of microorganisms, or microbes. They could be bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea. Baseline estimates suggest that there … Continue reading Are there soil microbes under my fingernails?

Can industrial hemp be intercropped in pine plantations?

Land covers about 29% of the Earth’s surface and is an essential natural resource for the survivability and prosperity of humanity. As the human population continues to expand, land and other natural resources will begin to experience depletion. I currently work with industrial hemp, and its recent legalization opened opportunities for hemp-based research. Knowing how … Continue reading Can industrial hemp be intercropped in pine plantations?

How is erosion affecting the recovery of the Fukushima area?

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced the unprecedented Tohoku earthquake. It was the largest in Japan’s history, and created a massive tsunami that impacted Japan’s northeastern coast. A result of the earthquake and tsunami was the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This meltdown had immediate and long-term impacts on the area. On … Continue reading How is erosion affecting the recovery of the Fukushima area?

What do ants and soils do for each other?

Have you ever wondered how important ants are for agriculture and soils? They do not get much credit for their contribution towards our planet Earth. Moreover, many people dislike them. Don’t we? We certainly don’t appreciate them in our homes – or on our picnic tables! Imagine a situation where you are in a corn … Continue reading What do ants and soils do for each other?

How do different root structures affect soil?

Plant roots modify soil in different ways – depending on the root’s architecture. Most of us think of the soil as the natural habitat for plants, and therefore soils must provide a nurturing and supportive environment for them, right? Well…most of us could not be more wrong about that. The soil is not a very … Continue reading How do different root structures affect soil?

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?