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Composting and Mulching to Build Healthy Soils

When weather conditions are dry, it is a good time to explore ways to conserve water. Organic material is essential to good soil. Well-decomposed organic matter helps increase water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Undecomposed material like leaves and clippings used as surface mulch can help conserve moisture and keep weeds under control. Nematodes, those little microscopic worms that feed on your roots, will do less damage in a high organic soil. Organic matter may also increase the minor element and microbiological activity of your soil.

For these reasons, save your grass clippings and leaves. They are like money in the bank. You can store these materials in a corner of the garden. Decay of plant material deposited in a compost pile can be hastened through the use of fertilizer.

For each bushel of leaves, grass clippings or pruning tips, add two cups of balanced fertilizer and one cup crushed coral or hydrated lime. Build the compost pile in layer-cake method, a layer of plant material 6 inches deep.

No nos podemos permitir perder el suelo

El 7 de julio se celebra el Día Internacional de la Conservación del Suelo. Este recurso natural, puede que no luzca tanto como un bosque verde ni parezca tan vital como el agua dulce. Pero lo cierto es que la tierra, a pesar de su aspecto áspero y austero, es igual de esencial para sostener la vida en nuestro planeta.

Los suelos son un recurso natural esencial y no renovable que proporcionan bienes y servicios vitales para los ecosistemas y la vida humana. Son fundamentales para la producción de cultivos, piensos, fibra, combustible y filtran y depuran el agua. Aproximadamente el 95% de los alimentos mundiales se producen en el suelo. Este proporciona nutrientes, agua y minerales para las plantas y los árboles, almacena carbono y es el hogar de miles de millones de insectos, pequeños animales, bacterias y muchos otros microorganismos.

Si queremos asegurar la supervivencia futura de la humanidad, es necesario que lo conservemos, porque sin él no sería posible la producción de alimentos y ¿cómo subsistiría la sociedad?

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Al compostar estamos devolviéndole suelo a la Tierra

“Otoño es la época que más me dedico al jardín”, es lo primero que comenta al ingresar al zoom. Vive en Bariloche, es ingeniera agrónoma, docente e investigadora del Conicet. Tiene más de 70 artículos científicos publicados, es parte fundadora de la flamante Asociación Argentina de Compostaje (Asacomp). Sabe mucho de suelos, contaminación y tiene mucha vocación de compartirlo. Además, fue directora de la Planta de Compostaje Cloacal de su ciudad, en la que se procesan los efluentes del 70 por ciento de la población y se produce alrededor de 5000 metros cúbicos de enmienda orgánica por año. Material de comprobada eficacia en la regeneración de suelos áridos y degradados.

María Julia Mazzarino proviene de una cuna de agrónomos. Un tío materno fue una de sus mayores inspiraciones, Antonio Prego, que investigaba suelos en el INTA de Castelar. Y desde su infancia en Añatuya (Santiago del Estero) y la colonia piamontesa San Francisco (Córdoba), recibió el legado de su familia por la tierra. Por ese mismo motivo también vivió en Alemania, donde realizó su doctorado sobre suelos acidificados, contaminados con azufre y distintos nitratos. “Quería aprender metodologías para medir»; recuerda.

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How Pesticides Are Harming Soil Ecosystems

The first year after Jason Ward began transitioning his newly purchased conventional farm to organic production, he started seeing more earthworms in the soil beneath his corn, soybeans, and wheat fields. By the third year, he had spotted numerous nightcrawlers—big worms reaching up to eight inches long—on his 700-acre farm in Green County, Ohio.

With conventionally farmed land, “anything synthetic is hurting the natural ecosystem of the soil,” said Ward, whose acreage is now largely certified organic. “As you transition away from that, the life comes back.”

By life, Ward means the rich diversity of insects and other soil invertebrates—earthworms, roundworms, beetles, ants, springtails, and ground-nesting bees—as well as soil bacteria and fungi. Rarely do conversations about the negative impacts of pesticide use in agriculture include these soil invertebrates, yet they play a vital role in soil and plant health and sequestering carbon. Worms eat fallen plant matter, excrete carbon-rich casts and feces, cycle nutrients to plants, and create tunnels that help the soil retain water. Beetles and other soil insects feed on the seeds of weeds, or prey on crop pests such as aphids.

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El cuidado del suelo, política central de una nueva cultura regenerativa

Necesitamos un cambio profundo de paradigma en nuestro sistema de producción agropecuaria. Es momento de cuestionar con firmeza los falsos modelos de desarrollo que anteponen las ganancias a corto plazo por encima de la salud de los ecosistemas. Debemos hacer esta transición a nivel global, y pasar de la actual agricultura química, de monocultivo y degradación de suelos, hacia un modelo agrícola holístico y regenerativo como camino de verdadera prosperidad. La mejor manera de garantizar la seguridad alimentaria, lograr erradicar la pobreza y combatir la crisis climática, es apoyando sistemas agropecuarios resilientes que protejan la biodiversidad y fomenten la recarbonización de los suelos. Necesitamos políticas públicas que acompañen a los productores en esta transición y no dejen espacio a prácticas agrícolas insostenibles. En este sentido, me viene a la memoria una gran frase de Franklin D. Roosevelt que dice: “Una nación que destruye a su suelo, se destruye a sí misma”.

Quienes buscamos acelerar una transición hacia una nueva cultura regenerativa debemos ayudar a instalar en el debate público las temáticas que son realmente importantes. Uno de los temas centrales para salir de la crisis socioambiental que atraviesa la humanidad, es comprender el rol que cumplen los suelos en la salud de los ecosistemas y el grave peligro de degradación que sufren hoy, debido a prácticas agrícolas insostenibles. Según la FAO, el 33% del suelo mundial esta degradado.

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‘A Poor Man’s Rainforest’: Why We Need to Stop Treating Soil like Dirt

Hidden under our feet is a miniature landscape made up of tunnels, caves and decaying matter. Soil is where a quarter of the species on our planet are believed to live and in this dark, quiet, damp world, death feeds life. Rotting leaves, fruits, plants and organisms are folded into the soil and burped out as something new.

Good soil structure provides many nooks and crannies that house organisms, which, in turn, create an environment that suits them, directly altering – and improving – the structure of soil. Like a collective of tiny chemists, they keep soils healthy and productive by passing nutrients between them, either by collaborating or killing each other.

Complex food webs move nutrients around the system, generating healthy soils that provide goods and services for humanity. Goods include food, fibre and clean water. Services include regulation of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, nutrient recycling, water storage, regulation of disease and detoxification of pollutants.

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Soil Carbon: What Role Can It Play in Reducing Australia’s Emissions?

The Morrison government is backing soil carbon – drawing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the land – as a major part of its response to the climate crisis.

The idea isn’t new, and at times has been derided as “soil magic” due to exorbitant claims about what it could achieve. But it is receiving renewed focus after the government listed it as one of five priority areas under its so-called “technology, not taxes” approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has flagged that farmers should expect more support for soil carbon and other carbon farming projects in the May budget. Meanwhile, other Nationals MPs have rejected any steps to tackle the climate crisis and called for agriculture to be exempt from a target of reaching net zero emissions, should the government ever commit to one.

So what is the truth about soil carbon? What role can it – and agriculture generally – play in reducing emissions?

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Corn Belt Farmland Has Lost a Third of Its Carbon-rich Soil

More than one-third of the Corn Belt in the Midwest – nearly 100 million acres – has completely lost its carbon-rich topsoil, according to University of Massachusetts Amherst research that indicates the U.S. Department of Agricultural has significantly underestimated the true magnitude of farmland erosion.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by UMass Amherst graduate student Evan Thaler, along with professors Isaac Larsen and Qian Yu in the department of geosciences, developed a method using satellite imagery to map areas in agricultural fields in the Corn Belt of the Midwestern U.S. that have no remaining A-horizon soil. The A-horizon is the upper portion of the soil that is rich in organic matter, which is critical for plant growth because of its water and nutrient retention properties. The researchers then used high-resolution elevation data to extrapolate the satellite measurements across the Corn Belt and the true magnitude of erosion.

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Urban Areas Need “Freedom Lawns” To Revive Their Soil

Few people put much thought into the soil beneath their feet, but Loren Byrne does. A professor at Roger Williams University, Byrne is an expert on urban soil ecology, and he worries that humans are changing the structural integrity of soils in urban environments and limiting the ability of plants and animals to live in and nourish the earth.

“Soil is easily overlooked and taken for granted because it’s everywhere,” he said. “We walk all over it and think of it as dirt that we can manipulate at our will. But the secret of soil is what’s happening with soil organisms and what’s happening with their interactions below ground that help regulate our earth’s ecosystems.”

Byrne contributed a chapter about urban soils to a report, State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity, issued last year by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. He discussed how the ecology of the soil changes as it is compacted during construction, paved over, chemically treated for lawns, and dug up and carried away.

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Soil Conservation Plants Hope

The soil beneath our feet might save the planet.

“If we get the soil right we can fix a lot of our issues,” Ray Archuleta says. “Healthy soils lead to a healthy plant, a healthy animal, a healthy human, healthy water, and ultimately a healthy climate and planet.”

Archuleta, a Certified Professional Soil Scientist with the Soil Science Society of America, has a calling – soil conservation. He’s traveled the United States as well as abroad to plant the seeds of thought about the negative effects of a problem that he sees everywhere he goes. That problem is soil erosion.

In the film “Kiss the Ground,” released in 2020, the problem of rapid soil erosion is said to have begun long ago when mankind invented the plow. As the plow became popular vast areas around cities were plowed to grow grain for food. As the soils eroded so did those early empires until they eventually vanished into the dust. The film describes the 1930s Dust Bowl era as the largest manmade disaster in history. By the end of 1934, millions of cropland acres were permanently damaged.

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