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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Soil microbiome' Category


16
Jul

Health and Behavioral Development of Beneficial Black Garden Ants Stunted by Low Levels of Pesticide Exposure in Soils

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2020) Long-term exposure to sublethal (low-level) concentrations of the neonicotinoid in soil negatively affects the health and behavioral development of black garden ants (Lasius niger) colonies, according to a study published in Communications Biology by scientists at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Ants are one of the most biologically significant insects in the soil ecosystem, acting as ecosystem engineers. Their burrowing behavior aerates the soil, allowing oxygen and water to penetrate down to plant roots. Additionally, ants increase soil nutrient levels by importing and accumulating organic material like food and feces, thus enhancing nutrient cycling. Like many other insects, ants are unfortunate victims of the global insect apocalypse or population decline, and much research attributes the recent decline to several, including pesticide exposure. Broad-spectrum pesticides, like neonicotinoids, indiscriminately kill pests and nontarget organisms alike, as their ubiquitous use contaminates soils, even in untreated areas. This study highlights the necessity of rethinking chemical pest management, developing sustainable agricultural practices that reduce the use of agrochemicals, like pesticides, to prevent permanent environmental ecosystem damage. Researchers in the study note, “To prevent irreparable damages to functioning ecosystems, [we] suggest to either fully incorporate long-term effects in risk assessment schemes, or to make a shift […]

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29
May

Citizen Scientist Farmers Use Worms to Analyze Soil Health

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2019) A soil health monitoring study in England finds that an alarming 42% of surveyed fields are deficient in a wriggly measurement—earthworm populations. Over half the farmers recruited in this citizen science evaluation said they planned to change their soil management practices as a result of the earthworm monitoring results. The #60minworms method, named for the time it takes to conduct, is to dig a soil pit and place the soil onto a mat, then sort out the earthworms into a bucket. After sorting, the total number of earthworms is counted, and juveniles are returned to the soil. Adults are sorted and recorded by type using a simple key (surface worms: epigeic—small and red, anecic—pale or green; deep-burrowing worms: endogeic—heavily pigmented and large). This is repeated ten times using a W-style sampling pattern across a field. Jacqueline Stroud, PhD, the study author and soil scientist, developed survey booklets to distribute to volunteer farmers. Recruitment methods included events, workshops, and Twitter. Farmers conducted tests on their own private land during a 6-week window in 2018. They recorded their results in the given booklets and sent the information for analysis. A total of 126 fields were surveyed. Worm data […]

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