Soil Care Network Newsletter
July 2022
by Emma Lietz Bilecky, in collaboration with Anna Krzywoszynska, Thirze Hermans, and Michiel van de Pavert

 

Soils & Climate

This Modern Farmer feature highlights changes to soil microbiomes  that could accompany changing climates. Scientists determined that climate warming can reduce the diversity of microbes but increase the complexity of their relationships, speed up their decomposition of soil organic matter and also make way for new soil-borne pathogens.

A fascinating Science feature on the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN) reveals efforts to map global distributions of mycorrhizal soil fungi to safeguard biodiversity and confront climate change. Finding inspiration from the Human Genome Project, SPUN has identified far-reaching fungal networks in soils the world over and encountered stunning underground diversity in boreal forests and drylands.

Recent heat waves have sparked concerns about the ability of crops to weather heat, and soils to hold moisture. This study in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems discusses why soil’s water-holding capacity is critical for climate resilient agriculture.

Climate change will increase flooding events that could spread industrial soil contamination in already impacted communities, a recent study by researchers from New York University, Rice University and Brown University found.

Soils on the Farm Front

 

Cover crops may not be a silver bullet solution for intensively monocropped and fertilized soils, studies led by Nakian Kim at the University of Illinois found.

 

This study could have novel implications for improving crop yields in heavily compacted soil. X-ray imaging demonstrated that plants with narrow roots, as opposed to those with dense roots as was formerly assumed, penetrate hard soils more easily.

For more on the wide-reaching impacts of agricultural machinery on soil compaction, check out this National Geographic feature.

A new documentary, “Delmarva and the Ground for Change”, highlights three farms on the Delmarva Peninsula using soil to better prepare for climate change extremes.

Political leader pleas –  PM Narendra Modi asked farmers to adopt natural farming to protect soils and improve crop yields. President XiJinping is similarly asking farmers in Northeast China to protect the regions valuable “black soil”

And a bit of soil fun! Delaware Farmers’ “soil your undies” campaign aims to assess soil health by measuring how much cotton briefs disintegrate underground over the course of two months.

Carbon Farming News

The Australian firm AgriProve is making big investments in soil carbon sequestration, Bloomberg reports.

This study looked at the effects of intercropping and manure application on soil organic carbon retention in Mediterranean and boreal ecosystems of Europe. 

This study looks at plant silicon deposits (phytoliths) to study soil carbon sequestration.

Soils & Human Health

Heavy metals, plastic, and other soil pollutants may cause increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies show soil contaminants can travel long distances though air and food with far reaching impacts for human health.

Soil Contamination & Remediation

This EPA study shows how efforts to reduce soil lead bioaccessibility through the application of biochar could inadvertently increase it. Effects of biochar remediation vary between upland and wetland soils, being effective to reduce lead bioaccessibility on upland soils but increasing it in aerated wetland soils.

 

This study explains how microplastics could affect soil structure in wetland soils.

PFAS are shown to impact microbially-driven processes in soil, increasing litter decomposition and soil pH, but decreasing soil respiration, microbial populations, and soil aggregation.

Fixed Earth is attempting to use a combination of soil bacteria and electrocution for remediation efforts to remove PFAS, "forever chemicals."

A recent Chemosphere review shows phytoremediation can remove lead, mercury, and arsenic from Nepal’s soils.