Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Water Issue

     Arid lands across the globe are being impacted by water shortages that are having grave economic consequences. In the arid west of the United States, this is causing a conflict between cities and agricultural entities which are competing for the same water!   At the same time, arid soils have been compromised due to common management practices and therefore are not functioning at optimum capacity.  As a result, these soils provide relatively low levels of water and nutrition to vegetation. These compromised soils lack or are deficient in Mycorrhizal fungi and Humic substances; both Mycorrhizal fungi and Humic substances greatly increase a soils capacity to hold water and a plant’s ability to uptake nutrients. 

     If we do not restore compromised arid soils, we cannot maximize crop success nor the conservation of water in arid lands of the Western United States, nor anywhere else on the globe.

     Mycorrhizae associate with roots and help improve the uptake of water and mineral nutrients from the soil, particularly during times of drought or when soil pH decreases mineral availability.  “Developing agricultural practices using the fungus as an inoculum could help bring back low-input agriculture and enable cultivation of arid or semi-arid lands because the fungus promotes drought resistance in the plants it colonizes” said Dr. Lammers of New Mexico State University. 

     Humic substances, containing Humic Acids, are complex biologic chemicals, which are prevalent in healthy top soils.  Humic substances are incredibly hydrophilic (water-loving),  they significantly increase a soils Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and they contribute to macroaggregate formation.  Combined these benefits convert arid soils, which more than likely are not providing sufficient water nor nutrients, into a soil which provides abundant nutrients and water.

Written by:
Aurora Fabry-Wood
Staff Biologist