Helping farmers put real health on our plates

Microplastics distribution: The disease and pollution of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.

A particularly large collembolan (almost 2mm long) found in an oak forest in Ireland. Soil collembolan species are typically much smaller, paler, and might not have eyes. Together with microbes these animals help elements like nitrogen cycle between plants and soil.              Credit: Tancredi Caruso – Author

Microscopic animals are busy distributing microplastics throughout the world’s soil

King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, lies 120km, about a day’s sail off the northernmost tip of Antarctica. It’s a rugged place – home to seals, penguins, a few scientific bases and not much else. Though the climate is mild compared to the mainland, temperatures still barely reach above freezing in the summer months and the island is almost entirely covered in ice. If microplastics can enter the food web here, they can probably do so almost anywhere on earth.

But this is exactly what colleagues and I discovered, when we searched for microplastics inside tiny creatures found on King George Island. Our results, now published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, show that microplastics are becoming an integral part of the soil food web.

Microplastics are pieces of plastics smaller than a few millimetres, and usually much smaller than that. These bits and pieces break off from the hundreds of millions of tons of plastics that are produced each year, and collectively form a huge amount of waste. And, as plastic degrades only very slowly, it has dramatically accumulated in the environment, everywhere from the deepest ocean floors to the North and South poles.

Read the full article: https://theconversation.com/microscopic-animals-are-busy-distributing-microplastics-throughout-the-worlds-soil-141353

 

Pesticide residues found in more than 80% of European soils

EU soil map

Highlights

  • 76 residues of pesticides were analyzed in 317 EU agricultural topsoils.
  • 83% of the soils contained 1 or more residues, 58% contained mixtures.
  • 166 different mixtures were identified.
  • Predicted concentrations of individual residues were occasionally exceeded.
  • The combined effects of residue mixtures need to be assessed.

Abstract

Pesticide use is a major foundation of the agricultural intensification observed over the last few decades. As a result, soil contamination by pesticide residueshas become an issue of increasing concern due to some pesticides’ high soil persistence and toxicity to non-target species. In this study, the distribution of 76 pesticide residues was evaluated in 317 agricultural topsoil samples from across the European Union. The soils were collected in 2015 and originated from 11 EU Member States and 6 main cropping systems. Over 80% of the tested soils contained pesticide residues (25% of samples had 1 residue, 58% of samples had mixtures of two or more residues), in a total of 166 different pesticide combinations. Glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA, DDTs (DDT and its metabolites) and the broad-spectrum fungicides boscalid, epoxiconazole and tebuconazole were the compounds most frequently found in soil samples and the compounds found at the highest concentrations. These compounds occasionally exceeded their predicted environmental concentrations in soil but were below the respective toxic endpoints for standard in-soil organisms. Maximum individual pesticide content assessed in a soil sample was 2.05 mg kg−1 while maximum total pesticide content was 2.87 mg kg−1. This study reveals that the presence of mixtures of pesticide residues in soils are the rule rather than the exception, indicating that environmental risk assessment procedures should be adapted accordingly to minimize related risks to soil life and beyond. This information can be used to implement monitoring programs for pesticide residues in soil and to trigger toxicity assessments of mixtures of pesticide residues on a wider range of soil species in order to perform more comprehensive and accurate risk assessments.

For further information……click on full article link. 

Credit: Science Direct

Full article:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969718343420

Eco Farming Daily discusses soil restoration: 5 key principles

Soil in hands

Soil restoration is the process of improving the structure, microbial life, nutrient density, and overall carbon levels of soil. Many human endeavors – conventional farming chief among them – have depleted the Earth to the extent that nutrient levels in almost every kind of food have fallen by between 10 and 100 percent in the past 70 years. Soil quality can improve dramatically, though, when farmers and gardeners maintain constant ground cover, increase microbe populations, encourage biological diversity, reduce the use of agricultural chemicals, and avoid tillage.

There are 5 key principles:

  1. Green is good — and year-round green is even better
  2. Microbes matter
  3. Diversity is indispensable
  4. Chemical use can be dangerous
  5. Avoid aggressive tillage

Conclusion

All food and fiber producers — whether grain, beef, milk, lamb, wool, cotton, sugar, nuts, fruit, vegetables, flowers, hay, silage, or timber — are first and foremost light farmers.

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have sadly resulted in significantly less photosynthetic capacity due to the reduced area of green groundcover on the Earth’s surface. Human activity has also impacted the photosynthetic rate of the groundcover that remains.

Our role, in the community of living things of which we are part, is to ensure that the way we manage green plants results in as much light energy as possible being transferred to — and maintained in — the soil battery as stable soil carbon. Increasing the level of soil carbon improves farm productivity, restores landscape function, reduces the impact of anthropogenic emissions, and increases resilience to climatic variability.

It is not so much a matter of how much carbon can be sequestered by any particular method in any particular place, but rather how much soil is sequestering carbon. If all agricultural, garden, and public lands were a net sink for carbon, we could easily reduce enough CO2 to counter emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Everyone benefits when soils are a net carbon sink. Through our food choices and farming and gardening practices we all have the opportunity to influence how soil is managed. Profitable agriculture, nutrient-dense food, clean water, and vibrant communities can be ours… if that is what we choose.

Credit: Eco Farming Daily

Full article: http://ecofarmingdaily.com/soil-restoration-5-core-principles/

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