What is soil made of?

Soils can look like they are a homogeneous material. But in reality, soil contains solid particles of different sizes and different types. Some of the particles are minerals, and others are organic matter. There are spaces between the particles called pores. These pores may be filled with air or water. Soil is a mixture of … Continue reading What is soil made of?

What is “soil carbon”?

You may have heard a lot about soil carbon, “storing” carbon in soil, or “carbon markets.” So, let’s look at the relationship between soil and carbon in basic terms. First, carbon. It’s the sixth element on the periodic chart. In nature, only two things are pure carbon: diamonds and graphite. However, carbon can interact with … Continue reading What is “soil carbon”?

How do wild pigs affect riparian systems?

If you live in the southeastern United States, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered wild pigs or their damage. They can live along stream beds and dig in fields or along roadsides. In the U.S., wild pigs are an invasive species and don’t have many predators. They can affect water quality, compete with native species … Continue reading How do wild pigs affect riparian systems?

What has been discovered about the Mars surface? How does that relate to human missions?

Scientists have been studying the Martian surface with spacecraft since 1965 when the Mariner 4 spacecraft collected the first images. Since then, there have been additional flyby missions, as well as orbiting and landed missions. You might recall the movie, The Martian, and the attempt by the character Mark Watney to grow crops to survive … Continue reading What has been discovered about the Mars surface? How does that relate to human missions?

There is a fungus among us!

For over four hundred million years, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi have been forming symbiotic relationships with plants around the globe. Found on almost every continent and in approximately 80% of vascular plants, these important fungi play a pivotal role in plant nutrient uptake in diverse ecosystems. These important fungi begin their life in the soil – … Continue reading There is a fungus among us!

How do soils and humans impact one another?

Soils are a finite resource, and only renew over centuries or millennia. Soils provide many “services” to humans, yet it is largely an ignored resource. Some of the services soils provide are: Capturing and cleaning rain and snowfall,Providing structure to grow our food,Holding carbon in the form of organic matter (carbon sequestration), andProviding a home … Continue reading How do soils and humans impact one another?

Why use grass on tennis courts? Grass is fast!

With the availability of hard, rough surfaces for tennis courts, why do champions play on natural grass at Wimbledon? That grass is no regular “yard grass” – and it’s not even the same as what is on golf courses. The grasses at Wimbledon are not only bred for tennis but maintained at professional levels. Let’s … Continue reading Why use grass on tennis courts? Grass is fast!

Microbial respiration with iron

Most living creatures extract the energy in food through a process called respiration. During respiration, organisms take in oxygen and organic carbon (food) and breathe out water and carbon dioxide. Humans (and most creatures) require oxygen for respiration and therefore survival. But many microorganisms in soils do not need oxygen to survive! Unlike humans, soil … Continue reading Microbial respiration with iron

Do wildflowers help reduce runoff in roadside soils?

Road construction and roads themselves can cause more problems than just a rush hour traffic jam. My research focuses on using wildflowers to help reduce some of these problems – in addition to being pretty! Paved surfaces, such as roads, cannot absorb rain during storms. Rain or snowmelt becomes runoff that flows to the soils … Continue reading Do wildflowers help reduce runoff in roadside soils?

How do nematodes help plants and soils?

It might be hard to believe, but you may never have seen the most abundant animal on Earth: soil nematodes! They represent eighty percent of animal life by number and live in nearly every habitat. They are hard-working and important organisms. Soil-dwelling nematodes, which I research, are tiny – usually between 1/500th to 1/20th of … Continue reading How do nematodes help plants and soils?