Date

2019 12:00 AM

Major

Global Resource Systems

Department

Agronomy

College

Agriculture and Life Sciences

Project Advisor

Marchall McDaniel

Description

Amongst humanity’s greatest challenges this century will be to feed 10 billion people, requiring either conversion of more natural ecosystems to agriculture or sustainable intensification of preexisting farms. Maintaining or enhancing soil health—the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans—will be critical toward achieving this goal. Current soil health tests are expensive, even by industrialized countries standards. Our goal was to test decomposition of household items as an inexpensive, yet scientifically-robust, indicator of soil health and as an education tool. We conducted this study at the Naluwoli Primary School garden in the Kamuli district of Uganda, whose weathered plinthosol soils have been under hand-tillage for 5 years. Cotton underwear, green and rooibos teas, and birch wood sticks were buried in duplicate at a three-inch depth in both hand-tilled and untilled school garden soils. The materials were left to decomposed for 4, 7, 14, and 21 days. We hypothesized that untilled, natural vegetation soil would greater decompose all materials compared to tilled garden soils. Overall, untilled soils decomposed cotton by 0.68% less and birch wood sticks by 0.86% more per day more than hand-tilled soils. Tea data was inconclusive due to outside biological factors. Empowering farmers in Kamuli and other areas with inexpensive tools to evaluate practices impacting soil health will help inform and implement more sustainable farming practices, such as reduced tillage. In turn, this could lead to increased production, soil conservation, and food security in developing countries.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Using decomposition of household items as an indicator of soil health and educational tool in Kamuli District, Uganda

Amongst humanity’s greatest challenges this century will be to feed 10 billion people, requiring either conversion of more natural ecosystems to agriculture or sustainable intensification of preexisting farms. Maintaining or enhancing soil health—the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans—will be critical toward achieving this goal. Current soil health tests are expensive, even by industrialized countries standards. Our goal was to test decomposition of household items as an inexpensive, yet scientifically-robust, indicator of soil health and as an education tool. We conducted this study at the Naluwoli Primary School garden in the Kamuli district of Uganda, whose weathered plinthosol soils have been under hand-tillage for 5 years. Cotton underwear, green and rooibos teas, and birch wood sticks were buried in duplicate at a three-inch depth in both hand-tilled and untilled school garden soils. The materials were left to decomposed for 4, 7, 14, and 21 days. We hypothesized that untilled, natural vegetation soil would greater decompose all materials compared to tilled garden soils. Overall, untilled soils decomposed cotton by 0.68% less and birch wood sticks by 0.86% more per day more than hand-tilled soils. Tea data was inconclusive due to outside biological factors. Empowering farmers in Kamuli and other areas with inexpensive tools to evaluate practices impacting soil health will help inform and implement more sustainable farming practices, such as reduced tillage. In turn, this could lead to increased production, soil conservation, and food security in developing countries.