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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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Soil studies can be helpful for border control

URBANA, Ill. – Underground tunnels have been used by warriors and smugglers for thousands of years to infiltrate battlegrounds and cross borders. A new analysis published in the Open Journal of Soil Science presents a series of medieval and modern case studies to identify the most restrictive and ideal soil and geologic conditions for tunneling.

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20 years in the making: Rotate corn for better soil health

URBANA, Ill. – Soil microbes are living, working barometers of soil health. They are responsible for turning atmospheric nitrogen into forms plants can use, and for releasing nitrogen back into the air. Farm management decisions undoubtedly affect these microscopic workhorses, but, until now, scientists didn’t have a full picture of how crop rotation and tillage influence the soil microbiome.

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Morrow Plots: Soil imaging collaboration between Beckman, ACES

A new research collaboration will shed new light on soil samples from the University of Illinois’ Morrow Plots, the oldest agricultural research field in the United States. The collaboration between the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute and the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences aims to develop new methods and models to study how different soil processes affect soil and plant health. Read more.

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Genes controlling mycorrhizal colonization discovered in soybean

URBANA, Ill. – Like most plants, soybeans pair up with soil fungi in a symbiotic mycorrhizal relationship. In exchange for a bit of sugar, the fungus acts as an extension of the root system to pull in more phosphorus, nitrogen, micronutrients, and water than the plant could on its own.  

Mycorrhizal fungi occur naturally in soil and are commercially available as soil inoculants, but new research from the University of Illinois suggests not all soybean genotypes respond the same way to their mycorrhizal relationships.  

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