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We walk on it every day but how often do you consider what’s going on in the soil beneath your feet? This evening you will discover that soil gets everywhere, plants are communicating with each other and how biochar can help clean our soil. We explore what research is ongoing and helping to quantify the effects humans have on our land and how this knowledge can be used to combat global issues.
Earth Matters: How soil Underlies Civilisation
Professor Richard Bardgett (Professor of Ecology and President of the British Ecological Society)
For much of history, soil has played a central role in society. Farmers and gardeners nurture their soil to provide their plants with water, nutrients and protection from pests and diseases; major battles have been aborted or stalled by the condition of soil; murder trials have been solved with evidence from soil; and, for most of us, our ultimate fate is the soil. Soil is also vital to the bio-geochemical cycles that allow the planet to function effectively. Furthermore, better soil management could combat global issues such as climate change, food shortages and the extinction of species.
The Amazing World of Fungal Super-highways
Professor David Johnson (N8 Chair in Microbial Ecology)
The roots of virtually all land plants on Earth are colonised by beneficial ‘mycorrhizal’ fungi. In this talk, I will describe how these soil-borne symbiotic fungi play crucial roles in regulating numerous ecosystem processes through their interactions with plant roots and other organisms in soil. In particular, I will focus on the ability of mycorrhizal fungi to form vast networks in soil, which often interconnect several plants simultaneously. These underground super-highways have key roles in nutrient cycling in natural ecosystems, and can even facilitate plant to plant communication.
Biochar – Cleaning Up Our Soil
Natalie Heaney (PhD Researcher in Environmental Studies)
Biochar is a carbonaceous material which has demonstrated potential for immobilizing pollutants in soils helping to return them to their natural state. Changes in soil chemistry, due to the application of ammonia-based fertilizers to increase soil nitrogen, can lead to acidification and subsequent nitrate leaching which in turn can effect trace element mobility. In an increasingly polluted world, biochar can be part of the solution to remediating our soils which in the end, provide our food.