Monday, August 16, 2010

Farmers Asked to Participate in Survey on Urban Soils

Kansas State University seeks input in developing educational resources.

“Each soil has had its own history. Like a river, a mountain, a forest, or any natural thing, its present condition is due to the influences of many things and events of the past.”  Charles Kellogg, The Soils That Support Us, 1956.

Even in an urban plot of land, soil is a complex, living organism that gives to and takes from the environment around it. In urban areas, however, the soil’s interaction with its past and present environment, especially contaminants, may have an impact on what and how we can grow in that soil. The quality of urban soils, or their ability to function for a particular use such as a seed bed, may be negatively impacted by pollutants from previous land use. Just as we know that a soil’s texture, organic matter, compaction, etc. can impact plant growth in that soil, so does the presence of contaminants. A better understanding of soil quality specific to urban areas is necessary to ensure human and environmental health in our communities, especially as more gardeners and farmers utilize land that was previously vacant or a residential or industrial lot.

A better understanding of soil quality issues is essential to ensure the health of our soils, growers, consumers, and environment. As a graduate student at Kansas State University, I have decided to make urban soil quality the topic of my Master’s thesis. The principal goal of my thesis is to provide informational and technical resources on urban soil quality to growers, land managers, extension personnel, and community groups. These resources may include booklets, web-based materials, workshops, and technical assistance.

Before developing these resources, we need to recognize what urban growers know and want to know about soil quality and contaminants. That is why I am seeking help this summer from urban growers throughout the country. I have created a short survey to learn more about the experiences and resource needs of urban growers on the topic of urban soil quality. The more I know about your interest in, and experience with, soil-quality issues, the more beneficial the educational and technical materials will be. So please take a moment and participate in the brief survey. Urban growers, community gardeners, land owners and managers are all encouraged to respond. If you have any questions please contact me at the email or phone number listed at the end of this article.

This survey is part of an ongoing larger project titled “Gardening Initiatives at Brownfields Sites” funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (see Healthy Foods from Brownfields?, Urban Grown, February 2009.). The overall objective of this larger project is to enhance the use of brownfields sites (vacant, abandoned property, the reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance or contaminant) in an environmentally, socially and economically beneficial manner. Drs. Ganga Hettiarachchi (Department of Agronomy, KSU) and Sabine Martin (Center for Hazardous Substance Research, KSU) are leading the project, and Dr. DeAnn Presley (Department of Agronomy, KSU) along with many others, is also collaborating.

(By Ashley Raes Harms, or 785-532-5098)

No comments:

Post a Comment