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Soils

Gully erosion prediction tools can lead to better land management

URBANA, Ill. – ­Soil erosion is a significant problem for agricultural production, impacting soil quality and causing pollutants to enter waterways. Among all stages of soil erosion, gully erosion is the most severe phase, where large channels are carved through the field. Once gullies develop, they are challenging to manage through tiling; they require a more comprehensive approach along the impacted area. 

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Tomatoes, but not farm workers, gardeners, safe from soil lead

URBANA, Ill. – Urban agriculture is booming, but there’s often a hidden danger lurking in city soils: lead. A recent University of Illinois study showed universally elevated lead levels in soils across Chicago, an urban ag hotspot.

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Cover crops not enough to improve soil after decades of continuous corn

URBANA, Ill. – Although about 20% of Illinois cropping systems are planted to continuous corn, it’s nearly impossible to find fields planted this way for decades at a time. Yet long-term experiments like one at the University of Illinois, including over 40 years of continuous corn under different nitrogen fertilizer rates, provide incredible learning opportunities and soil management lessons for researchers and farmers alike. 

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New estimation strategy improves soil carbon sampling in agricultural fields

There is much more carbon stored in Earth’s soil than in its atmosphere. A significant portion of this soil carbon is in organic form (carbon bound to carbon), called soil organic carbon (SOC). Notably, unlike the inorganic carbon in soils, the amount of SOC, and how quickly it is built up or lost, can be influenced by humans. Since its advent about 10,000 years ago, agriculture has caused a significant amount of SOC to be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change. 

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Hyperspectral sensing and AI pave new path for monitoring soil carbon

URBANA, Ill. – Just how much carbon is in the soil? That’s a tough question to answer at large spatial scales, but understanding soil organic carbon at regional, national, or global scales could help scientists predict overall soil health, crop productivity, and even worldwide carbon cycles. 

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Illinois research reveals cadmium's route into chocolate

URBANA, Ill. – Committed chocoholics, be warned. A health-robbing heavy metal, cadmium, lurks in the velvety recesses of your favorite indulgence.

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Lead lurking in your soil? New Chicago project maps distribution

URBANA, Ill. – Lead exposure in early childhood can have lifelong consequences, including brain damage, developmental delays, and learning and behavioral disorders. Preventing these devastating outcomes means avoiding lead, but that’s only possible if you know where to find it.

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Grant funds study of free-living nitrogen fixers in organic systems

URBANA, Ill. – Organic farmers often struggle to meet the nitrogen demands of corn and other crops. Unlike conventional farmers, with their easy access to inexpensive inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, fewer commercial options are available for organic growers.

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No-till practices in vulnerable areas significantly reduce soil erosion

URBANA, Ill. – Soil erosion is a major challenge in agricultural production. It affects soil quality and carries nutrient sediments that pollute waterways. While soil erosion is a naturally occurring process, agricultural activities such as conventional tilling exacerbate it. Farmers implementing no-till practices can significantly reduce soil erosion rates, a new University of Illinois study shows.

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Redefining drought in the US Corn Belt

URBANA, Ill. – As the climate trends warmer and drier, global food security increasingly hinges on crops’ ability to withstand drought. But are scientists and producers focusing on the right metric when measuring crop-relevant drought? Not exactly, according to new research from University of Illinois scientists, who urge the scientific community to redefine the term.

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