Healthy soil does much more than hold plants upright on the surface of the earth. It is a mix of mineral bits and old plant particles teeming with microbes to form a mysterious and complex web of life scientists are just beginning to understand.
While scientists use high technology to study heathy soil – painstakingly counting soil worms and bugs, sequencing the DNA of soil bacteria, for example – some farmers know intuitively whether the soil is healthy just by walking on it.
Scott Park is a first-generation Meridian, Calif., farmer. “When I step on a field and it feels like a road, something is wrong,” he said. “If it feels like a marshmallow or sponge, that's good.”
In a move designed to raise awareness about a substance that is the very foundation of life on earth, 2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils by high-level national and global organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations.
“Soil is a life-sustaining natural resource that often goes unnoticed,” said Anthony O'Geen, UC Cooperative Extension soil specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis. “But soil is fundamental for production of food, animal feed, fuel and natural fiber as well as performing many critical ecosystem functions, like...
- Author: John Stumbos
- Contributor: Aubrey White
It's not every day that you can take a guided tour of a 100-year-long scientific experiment, but that's what is happening May 28 as UC Davis hosts a field day at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility.
The 72-acre “Century Experiment” at Russell Ranch is exploring the long-term impacts of crop rotation, farming systems, and inputs of water, nitrogen, carbon, and other elements on agricultural sustainability. Researchers document trends affecting crop yields, soil quality, profitability, environmental impacts, and efficiency in use of limited resources.
“We look at both organic and conventional systems,” says Russell Ranch...
Beneath your home, below lawns, under asphalt streets, farms and natural areas there is a complex blend of minerals and organic matter that varies widely in texture, color and structure. Producing food, maintaining landscapes and building structures all depend on this little understood, but critical outermost layer of the Earth’s crust - the soil.
Anyone can learn about the United States’ diversity of soils using SoilWeb, a nationwide database of soil variability first developed in 2004. SoilWeb reached a new milestone this year when it was integrated with Google Maps and designed to scale across any Web-enabled device – desktop computer, tablet...
- Author: Aubrey White
Approximately every ten years, the research team at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility at UC Davis gets the chance to dig deep into their research material to help answer questions about the long-term sustainability of agricultural systems.
With a steel probe attached to the back of a tractor, the team digs three meters deep to take soil samples at 432 different points around the 72-acre field. The initiative takes the team nearly a month to complete, and the information in each soil core can answer major research questions...