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15 November 2016

Rejected Export Corn Prompts Class Action Suit

Updated 16 November 2016 When it’s assumed that food grown using modern high-tech agriculture, including GMO crops and greater reliance on chemical pesticides, is absolutely necessary to feed a growing world population, one might be tempted to question that assumption when the most populous nation in the world rejects such food. Syngenta Litigation There are some angry farmers in the U.S. who, in 2013-2014 were unable to sell their GMO …

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30 September 2016

Lake Erie Algae Blooms Correlate to June Rainfall

June precipitation appears to be positively correlated to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Looking at monthly precipitation data readily-available from Weather Underground and comparing it to the Western Lake Erie Algae Bloom Severity Index, I was surprised by the strength of the correlation (0.6, 0.85 with an “outlier” removed). June precipitation was the only month to correlate to the Severity Index in my data set and I was surprised that …

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3 July 2016

Lake Erie Watershed Soil Phosphorus Study Shows Glyphosate Link

As reported recently by Laura Barrera in the┬ámagazine No-Till Farmer, a study led by Ohio Northern University chemistry professor Christopher Spiese links the popular herbicide glyphosate to dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) desorption in soils. Mobilization and runoff of phosphorus to streams and lakes is associated with toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. For decades, soil scientists have understood phosphorus to form low-solubility compounds …

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1 January 2016

Agricultural Runoff and Ohio’s Senate Bill 1

In response to the August 2014 shutdown of Toledo’s water supply due to microcystin contamination, the Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which regulates fertilizer and manure application to farm fields. Essentially, the new regulations prohibit spreading manure or fertilizer in the Lake Erie Watershed when soils are frozen, snow-covered or saturated, or if there is a more than 50% chance of at least one-half inch of rain in the …

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16 November 2015

Field Drain Tile and the “Re-Eutrophication” of Lake Erie

Algae Blooms, Microcystin and Phosphorus It’s been over a year since Toledo, Ohio and surrounding communities shut down public water supplies due to an algae bloom and microcystin contamination in western Lake Erie. Was the trouble a “one-off” or can we expect more of these events in the future? While attending a seminar this year hosted by the Michigan Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, my interest was …

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8 October 2014

Symphony of the Soil is a Beautiful Film Documentary

I can’t say enough about this film made by Deborah Garcia. Symphony of the Soil is available here through October 10 for free viewing. The film has wonderful macro and micro videography and a tremendous sound track. The passion these scientists providing narrative have for their subject comes through loud and clear. I try to stay away from superlatives, but can’t help it with this documentary. Watch the film. If …

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17 August 2014

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

An unfortunate sequence of events involving drought, depleted water resources, wastewater management, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and dust storms may pose a real health risk in desert states – and, perhaps, beyond. Briefly, here’s the sequence of steps, beginning with drought and ending with a respiratory infection: 1. Arid states can’t grow everything they want with what little rainfall they get – so they irrigate. 2. Limited fresh water used …

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28 April 2013

The Gas We Eat

Nearly half of the world’s population owes its existence to food grown with industrial nitrogen fertilizer produced from natural gas. (1) In 2004, journalist Richard Manning published an intriguing, if somewhat controversial, article in Harpers magazine called The Oil We Eat: Tracing the food chain back to Iraq. Manning notes that growing our food under the usual practices requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of …

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17 November 2012

Ken Burns Presents “The Dust Bowl” on PBS

This coming Sunday and Monday nights (November 18-19), PBS is featuring the Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl. Burns calls it “the greatest man-made ecological disaster in Unites States history… A ten-year apocalypse superimposed over the worst economic cataclysm in our nation’s history, the Great Depression.” From an article by James West at the Atlantic: As the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, many in New York and …

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19 July 2012

Introducing the European Geoscience Union – Soil Systems Science Division

The European Geoscience Union, a leader in the free dissemination of scientific research, has rolled out its Soil Systems Science Division (SSSD). The SSSD has a blog newsletter with some fine articles and beautiful images about soils and surface geology of Europe. When Editor Jessica Drake (Soilduck) kindly invited me to write a short “why I do soil science” biographical piece, I jumped at the chance. Being that I’m American, …

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