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?

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?

Are there soil microbes under my fingernails?

If you’ve been gardening without gloves lately, then the answer is probably “yes.” But that is, for the most part, a good thing – besides having to clean your hands! In garden soil there are millions to billions of microorganisms, or microbes. They could be bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea. Baseline estimates suggest that there … Continue reading Are there soil microbes under my fingernails?

Can industrial hemp be intercropped in pine plantations?

Land covers about 29% of the Earth’s surface and is an essential natural resource for the survivability and prosperity of humanity. As the human population continues to expand, land and other natural resources will begin to experience depletion. I currently work with industrial hemp, and its recent legalization opened opportunities for hemp-based research. Knowing how … Continue reading Can industrial hemp be intercropped in pine plantations?

How is erosion affecting the recovery of the Fukushima area?

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced the unprecedented Tohoku earthquake. It was the largest in Japan’s history, and created a massive tsunami that impacted Japan’s northeastern coast. A result of the earthquake and tsunami was the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This meltdown had immediate and long-term impacts on the area. On … Continue reading How is erosion affecting the recovery of the Fukushima area?

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?