In heavily farmed parts of Central America, South America, and across the Caribbean, “the most degraded soils have not reached the point of no return. They can still be restored.”
So says CFAES’ Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and 2020 World Food Prize laureate, who’s helping lead a new, 34-country initiative to tackle that restoration.
Why it’s important: Some 36 million people in the region don’t have enough good food to eat, and degraded soils play a role in it. Success, Lal says, will mean “we can eliminate hunger and malnutrition in the region, and we can protect the natural resources that are now being degraded.”
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At the west end of Ohio State’s Columbus campus, within eyeshot of Ohio Stadium and the Columbus city skyline, passed by thousands of commuters daily, lies a soil study site about the size of a basketball court that could help change the planet, or at least about 4 billion acres of it.
In Chicago, Nick Basta and colleagues from CFAES’s School of Environment and Natural Resources are helping restore “an 87-acre wasteland of glassy slag” using topsoil made from biosolids. Biosolids are treated sewage sludge (in this case, collected by Chicago’s sewage system); once treated, they’re safe to use, free of pathogens and full of nutrients that help plants grow. In test plots, a biosolids-based soil blend made by Basta and team worked better than a wood-chip-based compost at supporting plants and beneficial soil organisms. The slag is waste from steel mills that used to be on the site. Read more in a story in TerraDaily.