What is the Wisconsin state soil?

As you know, many states have a designated state bird, flower, fish, tree, rock, etc. And, many states also have a state soil – one that has significance or is important to the state. We’ve previously written about New Jersey’s state soil, Downer as well as California’s state soil, San Joaquin. Wisconsin’s state soil is … Continue reading What is the Wisconsin state soil?

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”?

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?

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!

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?