Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Abertay scientists and partners win £1 million grant to unearth the secrets of soil

13.09.2005


Scientists at the University of Abertay Dundee are part of a £1-million project investigating the basis for all life on earth – soil.



Professor Iain Young, Director of the University’s SIMBIOS centre, is heading a team of Abertay specialists collaborating with the Institute of Arable Crop Research and ADAS a private research company based in England.

The research, funded by a grant of more than £988,000 from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is aimed at providing an improved understanding of how organic carbon – in the form of compost or manure – can affect how soil behaves.


Professor Young’s team will be studying how the biophysical and biochemical properties of soil are affected by the fungi that live within it, while partner institutions look at the practical application of such knowledge to land management in the UK. Meanwhile, seven sites across the UK are conducting field trials looking at how different soils react to varying additions of organic carbon.

“Without soil, there would be no farming, no civilisation, and a very different kind of life on planet Earth,” said Professor Young. “Despite that, much of the way that soil works is a mystery to us.”

Mistreating soil through intensive long-term farming and too much use of chemicals can eventually create ‘dustbowls’ such those that almost destroyed agriculture in the Midwestern USA in the 1930s, or those which have devastated parts of northwestern China and Inner Mongolia in the last five years.

Professor Young continued: “Not only does poor soil management destroy agriculture in local areas, it also has a major environmental impact around the globe.

“Degradation of the soil becomes most likely when the proportion of organic carbon in the soil drops below 2%, but we don’t know exactly how the carbon interacts with the bacteria and fungi that live naturally in the soil. We can’t therefore predict how manipulating the carbon content by adding compost or manure will affect the long-term sustainability and productivity of the soil.”

Professor Young pointed out that healthy soils are enormously important for maintaining the diversity of life on earth.

“Soil teems with life,” he said. “In a single handful of soil, there are more individual organisms than the total number of human beings who have ever lived. Within that, there are thousands of different species of bacteria and fungi, including many that still haven’t been identified or studied by science.

“To a greater or lesser degree, they are interacting with each other and also with their immediate environment – making it more or less damp, for example – according to their own requirements for living. We need to know much, much more about how these interactions and how they are influenced or interrupted by human activities such as adding compost, moisture or chemical fertilisers.

“In short, we know that adding organic carbon to soil is good for it, but we don’t know exactly why,” he added.

Professor Young said that the need for answers to these questions was become increasingly urgent, as a growing world population put pressure on food supplies, and therefore on the planet’s limited stocks of fertile soil.

“There isn’t enough soil on Earth to be able to grow organic food for all of humanity,” he said, “but human experience has shown that intensive farming is not sustainable in the long-run. We need to find a sustainable middle-way between the two.”

Kevin Coe | alfa
Further information:
http://www.abertay.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single nanoparticle mapping paves the way for better nanotechnology

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A quantum spin liquid

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise

24.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>