The Soil for the Air project invites citizen scientists to experiment with soil, plants, fungi, and bacteria.
Climate Change - If you know a little something about climate change, you know that a build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate change -
As it turns out, the bodies of all these little creatures fill the soil with carbon. The more organisms, the more carbon the soil holds - and the more carbon stays in the soil, the less carbon dioxide fills our air.
Underground Hero - Recently, it has been found that certain kinds of fungi that mostly like to live with tree roots help our forest soils store up to 70% more carbon than previously thought! That's a lot. We already knew that preserving forests is important for our planet - now we know even more.
But what about the huge amount of soil we've transformed into farms? At least 37% of the Earth's soil is used for agriculture. If these special fungi make forests supercharged carbon storers, what if we could put all those millions of acres of farming soils to the same use?
A Good Collaborator - The Soil for the Air project is currently focusing on fava bean plants. Why?
Well first, fava beans are food. Since the Soil for the Air project hopes to turn agricultural soil into carbon storage, it's important to find a food plant that likes to grow with the special fungi.
Second, one of the fava bean's (inedible) cousins seems to be friendly with these fungi. Since traits run in families, favas might be a good place to look.
Carbon storage is the most important part of the Soil for the Air project.
But if we're successful, there could be some great side benefits, too.
Both bean plants and these special fungi help keep the soil rich in nitrogen. Yet millions of gallons of man-made nitrogen fertilizers are applied to crops every year around the world. Why is this a problem?
To sum up, fertilizers require a whole lot of energy to make and transport, which
adds greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, they create an "addiction" cycle for plants, they pollute our waterways which causes dead zones in our rivers and oceans, and they kill off the helpful organisms that live in the soil.
What would happen if the soil itself were tended by a collaboration of humans and helpful fungi, bacteria, and plants, in order to make its own fertilizers? Huge amounts of pollutants could be kept from our air and water.