Fingerprinting fugitive dust

Jul 21, 2011

Each community of soil microbes has a unique fingerprint that can potentially be used to track soil back to its source, right down to whether it came from dust from a rural road or from a farm field, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) soil scientist.

Ann Kennedy, at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Land Management and Water Conservation Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., studies the biological properties of soils that affect . She analyses the soil for the fatty acid or lipid content from the community of living in the soil. It is this lipid content that forms the living community's fingerprint.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Although Kennedy focuses on the soils of the Columbia Plateau region, which spans parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, she also works with ARS scientists in Colorado, Idaho, Missouri and Texas on fingerprinting soils. The scientists exchange soil samples to study a variety of soils from different regions.

Interestingly, microbial communities from dirt and gravel roads differed from adjacent , whether in Washington or Texas. Apparently, the microbial communities found on roads change with time because of the lack of plants and restricted on roads, compared to cropland.

Ultimately, Kennedy and her colleagues are looking for management practices that will keep the soil from blowing in the first place.

Explore further: 'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

More information: Read more about this research, which supports the USDA commitment to sustainable agriculture, in the July 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul11/wind0711.htm

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers examine way to undercut dust emissions

Jul 14, 2011

There is literally a way to undercut dust emissions in the very driest parts of the Pacific Northwest's Columbia Plateau region, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist.

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.

Rediscovering sound soil management

May 10, 2011

At the same time that demand for food is soaring along with the world's population, the soil's ability to sustain and enhance agricultural productivity is becoming increasingly diminished and unreliable.

Infrared sheds light on beneficial microbes

Dec 09, 2010

Infrared spectroscopy can quickly spot beneficial fungi on roots in soil, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) soil scientist Francisco Calderon.

Digging deep for ways to curb ammonia emissions

Sep 28, 2010

Dairy farmers can greatly reduce ammonia emissions from their production facilities by injecting liquid manure into crop fields below the soil surface, according to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Recommended for you

'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

11 hours ago

A major drought across the western United States has sapped underground water resources, posing a greater threat to the water supply than previously understood, scientists said Thursday.

User comments : 0