Understanding sensitive soils to improve quality of surrounding water

Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala are investigating the impact of phosphorous – both that which exists naturally in soil and that which has been added as manure or fertilizer – on sensitive soils and local aquatic systems.

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for crops and a component of many fertilizers, including animal manure. While it’s critical for plant growth, too much can damage the quality of water bodies near farms. Phosphorus runoff increases the nutrients within aquatic systems that feed algal blooms, which can lead to a decrease in oxygenated water and a reduction of biological diversity in lakes. Algal blooms can impact human health and wildlife as well as the economies of affected communities reliant on fishing and tourism.

“The transfer of phosphorus from land to aquatic recipients is not equally distributed, meaning some parts of the landscape are more vulnerable,” says Faruk Djodjic, Associate Professor at the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment. “By identifying those vulnerable soil profiles and targeting them with mitigation measures, we can improve water and soil quality.”

With the help of the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), Djodjic and his colleagues were able to analyze samples to better understand the composition of sensitive soils.

The beamline data from SXRMB helped the researchers identify important compounds that govern phosphorus absorption or release.

Read more on CLS website

Dust travelled thousands of miles to enrich hawaiian soils

With its warm weather and sandy beaches, Hawaii is a magnet for tourists every year. This unique ecosystem also attracts soil scientists interested in what surprises may lie beneath their feet.

In a recent paper published in Geoderma, European researchers outline how they used the rich soils of Hawaii to study the critical movement of phosphorous through the environment. By better understanding the amount and type of phosphorus in the soil, they can help crops become more successful and maintain the health of our ecosystems for years to come.

The project was led by Agroscope scientist Dr. Julian Helfenstein, Prof. Emmanuel Frossard with the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich; and Dr. Christian Vogel, a researcher at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin.

The team used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan to help analyze the different types of phosphorus in their samples and track their origins.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Dr. Christian Vogel using the VLS-PGM beamline to analyze a sample at the CLS.