NOV 09, 2017 4:15 AM PST

Let's cool down the soil

Soil temperature greatly influences how well plants and microorganisms (and therefore the entire soil community) thrive. Organisms that live in the soil depend on consistent soil temperatures that maintain constancy – or at least that don’t experience drastic changes. With our warming climate, some scientists have expressed concern over how rising soil temperatures might impact plant reproduction and survival.

Source: Food Tank

"Most plants are sensitive to extreme changes in soil temperature," said Samuel Haruna, a researcher at Middle Tennessee State University. "You don't want it to change too quickly because the plants can't cope with it." The seeds of some plants will fail to germinate if soil temperature changes occur too rapidly; others, meanwhile, will die because their roots cannot function well. Compacted soil such as those subject to farming, and soils lacking moisture (like many soils are during climate change-induced droughts) are particularly vulnerable to temperature changes. Because of this, Haruna and colleagues have been working to figure out if perennial biofuel and cover crops could alter soil thermal properties.

To determine this, the researchers cultivated several types of cover and perennial biofuel crops in a field and later analyzed the soils ability to regulate temperature. (The cover crops they used included cereal rye (Secale cereale), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa subsp. villosa), and Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum subsp. Arvense); the perennial biofuel crops were giant miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)). After collecting soil sample at 10 cm depth increments (until 30 cm deep), the team looked at the samples’ soil thermal properties including thermal conductivity, volumetric heat capacity, thermal diffusivity, volumetric water content, soil organic content, and bulk density.

Their results showed that both perennial biofuel and cover crops protect soils against extreme temperatures, acting as a buffer by slowing down how quickly temperatures spread through the soil. “Their roots break up the soil, preventing soil molecules from clumping together and heating or cooling quickly. The roots of both crops also add organic matter to the soil, which helps regulate temperature,” writes Science Daily.

The perennial biofuel and cover crops help twofold by retaining moisture as well, which also helps to buffer quick temperature changes. In addition, the cover crops add nutrients to the soil, which makes other crops more productive and profitable for farmers. Though the researchers have yet to move past laboratory testing, Haruna hopes that his work will encourage farmers to invest in cover crops.

"Climate change can cause temperature fluctuations, and if not curtailed, may affect crop productivity in the future," he said. "And we need to buffer against these extreme changes within the soil."

Sources: Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies, Science Daily

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 18, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Supercomputer Divulges Immediate Formation of Moon
OCT 18, 2022
Supercomputer Divulges Immediate Formation of Moon
Numerous theories have evolved over the years as to how the Earth’s Moon came to be, with one early theory suggest ...
OCT 19, 2022
Health & Medicine
Study Reveals Retained Dust in Lungs of Military Personnel
OCT 19, 2022
Study Reveals Retained Dust in Lungs of Military Personnel
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Jewish Health teamed up to investigate lung disease seen ...
OCT 25, 2022
Earth & The Environment
US Economy Might Not Be Able to Recoup Future Hurricane Economic Impacts
OCT 25, 2022
US Economy Might Not Be Able to Recoup Future Hurricane Economic Impacts
In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, an international team of researchers led by the Potsdam I ...
OCT 28, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
OCT 28, 2022
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
In a recent study published in ISME Communications, a team of researchers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutio ...
NOV 12, 2022
Earth & The Environment
45,000-Year-Old Human DNA Divulges Human Evolution Secrets
NOV 12, 2022
45,000-Year-Old Human DNA Divulges Human Evolution Secrets
In a recent study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, an international team of researchers led by the Universit ...
NOV 24, 2022
Microbiology
The Germs in Hospitals are a Bigger Threat Than Those on Farms
NOV 24, 2022
The Germs in Hospitals are a Bigger Threat Than Those on Farms
Researchers sought to learn how dangerous drug-resistant Klebsiella, which can be found in many places, like farms, hosp ...
Loading Comments...