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 Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

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: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>