Tannins' surprising benefits for soils, forests and farms

Nov 18, 2010 By Don Comis
Tannins' surprising benefits
ARS scientists are developing recommendations for using tannins—like those in red wine—to manage agricultural soils, including those where livestock graze in thinned forests. Click the image for more information about it.

The tannins that help make good red wine and bright fall colors also may help make good soil and healthy livestock, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers.

Chemist Javier Gonzalez and soil scientist Jonathan Halvorson, both at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center (AFSRC) in Beaver, W.Va., are leading a tannin research project that's now in its fourth year. Results from the studies by Gonzalez, Halvorson and their colleagues indicate tannins are important components of agroecosystems that can also affect production and environmental quality. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The scientists will use their results to develop recommendations for using tannins to manage soils and silvopastures, where livestock graze in thinned forests.

Tannins and other phenolic compounds are common in many plants. These compounds, believed to enter soil from and decaying leaves, may also be part of "teas" formed as rain and snowmelt run down tree bark and drip off the leaves.

The work is being done jointly with chemist Ann Hagerman's renowned tannin laboratory at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The two labs are combining their capabilities to identify important features of tannins that determine soil interactions.

Results to date show the rate and amount of binding to varied from one tannin to another. The scientists found that the binding quality of tannins also can be used to immobilize metals such as aluminum, lessening the metals' toxic effects on root growth. Tannin-related phenolics can also free up nutrients such as calcium for crop use.

The scientists are learning more about how forest metabolize tannins, leading to a better understanding of the varied ecological functions performed by tannins. The AFSRC scientists also are studying the nutritional and deworming potential of tannin-containing forages for goats.

Explore further: Green dream: Can UN summit revive climate issue?

More information: Read more about this research in the November/December 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. This research was published in Physiologia Plantarum, and in Soil Biology & Biochemistry.

Provided by USDA Agricultural Research Service

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving soil for better lawns and gardens

Nov 09, 2010

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in West Virginia are finding ways to improve soil on degraded land so it can be used for sports fields and other uses.

Understanding Why Rye Works as a Cover Crop

Oct 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists may soon find a way to enhance the weed-killing capabilities of a cereal grain that enriches the soil when used as a winter cover crop.

Recommended for you

Green dream: Can UN summit revive climate issue?

4 hours ago

Five years ago, the environment movement was in its heyday as politicians, actors, rock stars and protestors demanded a looming UN summit brake the juggernaut of climate change.

Rio's Olympic golf course in legal bunker

Sep 18, 2014

The return of golf to the Olympics after what will be 112 years by the time Rio hosts South America's first Games in 2016 comes amid accusations environmental laws were got round to build the facility in ...

User comments : 0