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

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?

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 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?