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World Soil Day 2021: NIFA Works to Boost Soil Productivity

Nifa Author
Rachel Dotson, Public Affairs Specialist (Social Media)

Healthy soil is a critical component to agricultural success—from the crops grown to the nutrients moving through the soil to feed livestock. World Soil Day (December 5) raises awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing growing challenges in soil management, according to the United Nations.

This year’s theme is “Halt Soil Salinization, Boost Soil Productivity,” focusing on salt content in the soil. Per Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, salt-affected soil disrupts agricultural productivity, water quality, soil biodiversity, and soil erosion.

On World Soil Day and every day, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recognizes researchers and stakeholders taking part in developing effective ways to manage soil health.  

Adaptive Swarm Robotics Could Revolutionize Smart Agriculture
A team in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University is working to establish a configurable, adaptive, and scalable swarm system consisting of unmanned ground and aerial robots designed to assist in collaborative, smart agriculture tasks. By using smaller machines to reduce soil compaction and working to avoid herbicide-resistant weeds through nonchemical methods of control, significant ecological and environmental benefits can be achieved. Read full article here.

Portable Sensing Technologies Hold Promise For Rapid Soil Testing
Through a recent investment through NIFA’s Small Business Innovation Research program, scientists are working to make soil analyses for farmers more efficient by using low-cost, portable sensing technologies. The conventional process of soil analysis is time-consuming and may prompt farmers to analyze soil less often. This project will allow farmers to use off-the-shelf technologies to be more proactive in managing soil treatment, optimal water consumption, and ideal fertilizer amounts while protecting soil and water quality. Learn more.  

Project Investigates Speed of Sorghum-Sudangrass Varieties in Returning Nutrients to Soil
A University of Kentucky student is studying if sorghum-sudangrass with a brown midrib trait adds nutrients back to the soil quicker than varieties without the trait. This warm season annual grass is used by Kentucky producers for summer grazing and pasture renovation. Read full article here.  

Land-Grant University Research & Extension Work Digs into Soil Health Issues
Collaborative Land-grant University research and Extension projects are digging into soil health issues such as erosion, chemical contamination, and nutrient deficiencies. This innovative work is advancing soil science and shedding light on effective ways to manage soil health. Check out the efforts here.

Learn more on additional NIFA-funded initiatives related to soil health:
 
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