International Research On Barren Soil Bears Fruit

A Chinese-Australian collaboration has yielded insights on the main drivers of soil acidification, a major cause of low cropland productivity.

AsianScientist (Aug. 25, 2015) – Scientists have made significant progress in determining what causes soil acidification—a discovery that could assist in turning back the clock on degraded croplands. Their results have been published in Biogeosciences.

James Cook University’s (JCU) Associate Professor Paul Nelson said the Chinese Academy of Sciences sought out the Australian researchers because of work they had done in Australia and Papua New Guinea on the relationship between soil pH levels and the management practices that cause acidification.

Building on the JCU work, scientists examined a massive 3,600 km transect of land in China, stretching from the country’s sub-arctic north to its central deserts. The work yielded a new advance that describes the mechanisms involved in soils becoming acidified.

Nelson said soil degradation is a critical problem confronting humanity, particularly in parts of the world such as the tropics where land use pressure is increasing and the climate is changing.

“We can now quantify the effect of, for instance, shutting down a factory that contributes to the production of acid rain,” Nelson said.

According to Nelson, the research found different drivers of soil acidification processes in different types of soil across northern China.

“This information is vital for designing strategies that prevent or reverse soil acidification and to help land managers tailor their practices to maintain or improve soil quality,” he said.

The Patron of Soil Science Australia, former Australian Ambassador to the United Nations and for the Environment, The Honourable Penny Wensley AC, welcomed news of the advance.

“With 2015 designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Soils, this is a very important year for soil scientists around the world. We need to promote greater awareness of the importance of soils and soil health and the role soil science has to play in addressing national and global challenges,” said Wensley.

Acidification is one of the main soil degradation issues worldwide, accelerated by water leaching through the soil. It is related mostly to climate, and the overuse of nitrogen-based fertilizer.

“The greater understanding of soil acidification causes this study has delivered could help improve soil management practices, not only in Australia and China, but around the world,” said Wensley.

The article can be found at: Luo et al. (2015) Contrasting pH Buffering Patterns in Neutral-Alkaline Soils Along a 3600 km Transect in Northern China.


Source: James Cook University; Photo: US Department of Agriculture/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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