“We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” – Leonardo Da Vinci, circa 1500’s
And, there is still much to be done. Although we have learned much about soils since Da Vinci made his famous comment, the astronomers have not been idle either. But, somewhere it is all stardust … More seriously though, the planet and the way we are producing goods and services are changing, profoundly affecting soil processes. The dynamic nature of soils assures that a soil scientist’s work is never done. And thus we roll up our sleeves, put our noses to the grind stone and the augers to the soil … The lab is busy.
Our lab is working on a wide range of soils issues that affect ecosystems in Vermont and elsewhere. “Feeding the 9 Million” challenges us to find ways to better manage soils for agriculture and to develop more effective farming practices. However, soils are more than that: “Probably more harm has been done to the science by the almost universal attempts to look upon the soil merely as a producer of crops rather than as a natural body worth in and for itself of all the study that can be devoted to it, than most men realize.” – C. F. Marbut, 1920. Soils are central to the cycling of elements with many implications for climate change, mitigation of pollution, and supporting land use beyond agriculture.
With this in mind, the lab is presently working on the effect of flooding on soil fertility, the utility of vermicompost as a replacement of Chilean Nitrate in organic agriculture, the invasion of European and Asian earthworms into important forest resources, the contribution of these invaders to trace gas emissions and C sequestration, pasture soil management … The list could go on but there are only 24 hours in a day and only so many coppers in the research treasure chest …
Most of these research projects are headed by my graduate students whose fresh ideas and hard work have added much to the success of the lab. Equally appreciated are the collaborative efforts of my colleagues at UVM and elsewhere. Present lab workers and collaborators are introduced in the People tab.
The above quotations were lifted from the NRCS education webpages (http://soils.usda.gov/education/resources/quotes/). There are many more there. Have a look.
I will do my best to keep you up-to-date on the research pursuits and results of this UVM laboratory.