Category Archives: Soil

Can biochar be used in effectively managing soil acidity?

What Causes Soil Acidity?

A recent article (Dai et al., 2017) reviewed how biochars can be used to decrease soil acidity. Approximately 50% of global arable land has a pH value < 5.5 and is considered acid. Soil acidification occurs by:

  • Acid deposition;
  • Removal of farm products; and
  • Application of ammonium-based fertilizers.

Soil acidity increases toxic metal availability, especially aluminum and manganese, and reduce nutrient availability including phosphorus, base cations (potassium, calcium, magnesium), and molybdenum.

Biochars Effect on Reducing Soil Acidity

Biochars have been shown to consistently elevate soil pH Continue reading Can biochar be used in effectively managing soil acidity?

Remineralization – what Mars and a Volcano can tell us about improving our food

Soil remineralization has been in the popular science news recently.  Remineralization uses natural minerals to improve soil health and produce nutritious food.

Remineralization Lessons from The Martian

Martian Remineralization
In the film ‘The Martian’ (shown) Matt Damon’s character grows potatoes in a controlled environment – researchers in Denmark suggest that this is feasible.

In a nod to The Martian, researchers from the Netherlands have successfully grown food in soil analogous to Martian soil.  With organic matter, crops grow well on Mars and moon soil simulant, and there is no evidence of increased metal uptake from these soils.

Remineralization Lessons from a Volcano

Continue reading Remineralization – what Mars and a Volcano can tell us about improving our food

Improving food production through nutrient minerals nanotechnology

Biosynthesized Nutrient Minerals

Improving food production is a great challenge of the 21st century – not just in terms of yield, but in terms of nutritional quality, with nutrient minerals research gaining momentum.  Research published by (Raliya et al., 2016) looked at improving rock phosphate application by adding biosynthesized ZnO nanoparticles.  Zinc acts as a co-factor in phosphorus-solubilizing enzymes.  Additional benefits included increased stem height, root volume, leaf proteins and chlorophyll contents.  ZnO nanoparticles were also distributed in all plant parts including the seeds in low concentrations, with implications for nutrition.  Additional success has been also been acheived through foliar applications of nanoparticle nutrient minerals (Wang et al., 2013). Continue reading Improving food production through nutrient minerals nanotechnology

Soil: The Foundation of Mineral Nutrition and Optimal Health

Soil The Foundation of Mineral Nutrition

Soil as the Foundation of Mineral Nutrition
Link between soils, food and human health

The FAO recently published a great infographic in the link between soil health-plant health-human health, the basis of mineral nutrition.  Animal scientists and veterinarians have known this for years and I have been studying the importance of soil mineral nutrition for almost 2 decades.

In 2004, I was fortunate to spend time with Dr Joel Wallach, a veterinarian and naturopathic doctor when he was lecturing in Australia.  This meeting brought to life the intricate link between soil health-plant health-human health.  I was able to interview him at that time and I was reminded of this interview after reviewing the FAO infographic. If you are interested in this interview, you can sign up for the audios by filling out the form below. Continue reading Soil: The Foundation of Mineral Nutrition and Optimal Health

Restoring Sovereignty to Farmers

Scientist, Author, Activist Vandana Shiva Leads Movement to Restore Sovereignty to Farmers

Acres USA has published a remarkable interview with Indian Agricultural Activist Vandana Shiva, a physicist trained in quantum theory until  the Union Carbide Bhopal disaster of 1984 led her on a path to expose the negative impacts of the Green Revolution.  Here are a couple of salient points from the interview: Continue reading Restoring Sovereignty to Farmers

Soil Management Strategies Mitigate Extreme Weather

Can Soil Management Strategies Mitigate Extreme Weather?

mississippi floodsWritten just 2 years after Hurricane Katrina hit, Manale (2007) describes the importance of soil carbon in flood control:

What does soil carbon have in common with Hurricane Katrina, ….the Great Upper Mississippi Flood of 1993, and the Red River Flood of 1997?  For each of these extreme weather and flooding events, substantial investments in soil carbon, and thus soil organic matter in upland and coastal soils, could have saved the public both trouble and money.” Continue reading Soil Management Strategies Mitigate Extreme Weather

Voisin on Soil Mineral Balance

Soil_Grass_Cancer

10 Quotes from Andre Voisin on the importance of Soil Mineral Balance

In a recent post, I looked at the link between soil microbial health and gut microbial health and it inspired to go back and review a book published in 1959.  In Soil, Grass, and Cancer: Health of Animals and Men is Linked to the Mineral Balance of the Soil, André Voisin described the importance of elements of the soil and their effects on plants, and ultimately, animal and human life. He saw the hidden danger in the gross oversimplification of fertilization practices that use harsh chemicals and ignore the delicate balance of trace minerals and nutrients in the soil. Voisin issues a call to stand up and acknowledge our responsibilities for public health and protective medicine to remove the causes of ill health, disease and, in particular, cancer. Continue reading Voisin on Soil Mineral Balance

Soil and Gut Microbial Relationship

Why we need to understand soil microbial health and gut microbial health

A scanning electron micrograph of branching hyphave that embrace and penetrate a mineral particle. Fungi seem to enter the particle at upper right and center right. Scale bar = 10 micrometers. Fig. 1b from Landweert et al. 2001.

I came across a book review for The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health in The Guardian this weekend.  I have started reading the book and will summarize my thoughts in another blog when I am finished.  However a couple of points I agreed with in The Guardian article – The scientists whose garden unlocked the secret to good health: Continue reading Soil and Gut Microbial Relationship

A Review of Biochar for Sustainable Soil Health

A Review of Biochar for Sustainable Soil Health

A recent article published in Pedosphere in October (Lone et al. 2015) gives a great summary review of the relationship between biochar and soil sustainability.  The article can be downloaded here.   The following is a summary of points made in the article. Continue reading A Review of Biochar for Sustainable Soil Health

Updating Soil Carbon Models to Include the Effect of Soil Erosion

Soil is considered a major store of soil containing more than three times the organic carbon in the atmosphere (Lal, 2003).  Land surface models only account for the effects of net primary production and heterotrophic respiration (King et al., 1997).  An article published this week in Nature Climate Change (Chappell et al., 2015) has proposed that SOC flux should include losses (and gains) due to soil erosion (and deposition).  Looking at several long-term experimental plots in Australia, and estimating net soil erosion using three approaches, the results were incorporated into RothC (a model for the turnover of organic carbon in topsoil) to estimate net C flux with and without soil erosion.  Using this approach, the model showed a consistent under-estimate of net C flux in the presence of soil erosion.

When this approach was adopted across the long-term plots in Australia, Continue reading Updating Soil Carbon Models to Include the Effect of Soil Erosion