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?

How are soil microbes affected by fertilizer in soils?

There isn’t a simple answer to this complex question – but my research hopes to shed some light on this important subject. The key to answering this question starts with understanding that all soils, microbes, and fertilizers are unique. Different farms – or even areas within a farm – may have different situations. Interactions between … Continue reading How are soil microbes affected by fertilizer in soils?

What happened to Alaska’s soils during the 2019 fires?

Alaska was on fire in the summer of 2019. It was the hottest summer on record for the state, and the driest on record in southcentral Alaska. For the first time ever, “extreme drought” conditions were declared. A typical summer in Alaska sees rain in May, a drier June, followed by increasing rain until winter. … Continue reading What happened to Alaska’s soils during the 2019 fires?

What are alluvial soils?

Alluvial soils are soils deposited by surface water. You’ll find them along rivers, in floodplains and deltas (like the Mississippi Delta), stream terraces, and areas called alluvial fans. This last category results from larger floods, causing the soil to spread out in the shape of a triangle fan. These soils are formed differently than many … Continue reading What are alluvial soils?

What is the California 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. The San Joaquin is the official state soil of California.  Let’s explore … Continue reading What is the California state soil?

How can soil scientists tell the history of a location from a soil pit?

There are many reasons why soil scientists dig soil pits. They all revolve around collecting information to address a question or a management problem. And sometimes they hold more questions than answers. Bald Ridge part of Bighorn National Forest, is located at about 10,000 feet in elevation. Credit: Ryan Schroeder In the summer of 2017, … Continue reading How can soil scientists tell the history of a location from a soil pit?