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?

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’s being done to restore wetlands?

Wetlands are fun places to get muddy, enjoy the outdoors, and listen for birdsongs. They provide important habitat for wildlife, and for recreation. You’ve likely seen wetlands on the fringes of lakes, on river floodplains, along the coast, and anywhere else where water accumulates on the landscape. Wetlands are found at the intersection of earth/soil … Continue reading What’s being done to restore wetlands?

How did soil salinity affect ancient civilizations?

Irrigation is a common farming practice, several thousand years old. It is an effort to add water to crops when rainfall is not enough to grow those crops. A North American group called the Hohokam lived 600-1600 years ago in the Lower Salt River valley in Arizona. They are well-known for their irrigation engineering. The … Continue reading How did soil salinity affect ancient civilizations?