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Articles on Soil

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Parts of Lake Elsinore, California, were overrun with muddy floodwater after a storm hit the Holy Fire burn scar in 2018. Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Digital First Media/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images

Wildfire burn scars can intensify and even create thunderstorms that lead to catastrophic flooding – here’s how it works

An atmospheric scientist and sailplane pilot describes why large areas of burned land can produce clouds and rainstorms.
A typical limestone karst landscape in China. Tony V3112/Shutterstock

How special soil observatories in China are helping to create more sustainable agriculture

Soil degradation is a huge challenge for farmers around the world. But new research is showing how farmers can balance crop yields with protecting the environment.
Soybeans sprout on an Illinois farm through corn stubble left on an unplowed field from the previous season – an example of no-till farming. Paige Buck, USDA/Flickr

To make agriculture more climate-friendly, carbon farming needs clear rules

Policymakers want to pay farmers for storing carbon in soil, but there are no uniform rules yet for measuring, reporting or verifying the results. Four scholars offer some ground rules.
Longleaf pines support one another through mycorrhizae – mutually beneficial relationships between certain fungi and the trees’ roots. Justin Meissen/Flickr

Plants thrive in a complex world by communicating, sharing resources and transforming their environments

We may think of plants as passive life forms, but they can cooperate, share resources, send one another warnings, and distance themselves from their communities when survival depends on it.
Weathering of rocks like these basalt formations in Idaho triggers chemical processes that remove carbon dioxide from the air. Matthew Dillon/Flickr

An effective climate change solution may lie in rocks beneath our feet

To avoid global warming on a catastrophic scale, nations need to reduce emissions and find ways to pull carbon from the air. One promising solution: spreading rock dust on farm fields.
Compost awaiting distribution at the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District’s Rancho Las Virgenes compost facility, Calabasas, Calif. Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

City compost programs turn garbage into ‘black gold’ that boosts food security and social justice

Turning food scraps and yard trimmings into compost improves soil, making it easier for people to grow their own food. City composting programs spread those benefits more widely.
Corn stover (stalks, leaves and cobs) left behind after harvesting becomes a mulch and cover crop for soybeans on a Tennessee farm. Lance Cheung, USDA

It’s time to rethink the disrupted US food system from the ground up

There’s growing interest in making the US food system more resilient and flexible, but soil – the origin of nearly everything we eat – is often left out of the picture.

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