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Digging the dirt.

Reading Tamsyn Jones' article about soils ("The Scoop on Dirt," features, September/October 2006) made me forget all about grading my 60 quizzes and 19 site descriptions this afternoon. I teach soft science to about 30 range and soils majors plus hundreds of students in environmental science, wildlife, forestry, natural resource planning and interpretation, and environmental biology at Humboldt State University in Northwestern California. Humboldt State University has a Wild-land Soils option that qualifies students to be a soil scientist. If you know a student that is looking for a great job in the outdoors, do a job search using "soft" at were 567 listings last time I checked! We receive more job listings in our career center than we have students to fill them.

Susan Edinger Marshall

Associate Professor, Humboldt State


Humboldt, CA

Tamsyn Jones rose to the challenge beautifully, showing how plants and various soil microbes all need each other to produce a viable and healthy environment. Our society has taught us to be unappreciative of soil. Carbon is a hot issue nowadays and it's important to understand the important role it plays in soil.

Another important piece she brought up was funding for research. There are fewer trained scientists with the ideas, experience and will to perform groundbreaking soft science. Instead of saving the rich soil resource we have, we're taking tiny steps that are way behind what other countries are doing.

Mary R. Honablew

intern, The Rodale Institute

Kutztown, PA

I very much enjoyed Tamsyn Jones' article on soil. With wonderful use of language, she skillfully conveyed the major concepts of human/soil interdependency. As a long-time commercial organic grower, and having studied soils from an organic farming perspective for years, I feel obligated to share some critical insights.

Most people I know, and even most farmers, associate soil compaction with driving equipment over the land or some related external pressure. But the vast majority of compacted farmland has far more to do with the soil chemistry. If you pour a fresh batch of cement, it does not require that you drive heavy farm equipment over it to get concrete.

When farmers apply fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, acid-treated phosphates, potassium chloride and other salt-based fertilizers, allow magnesium levels to remain excessive and in addition to this apply nitrogen in forms that burns microbial life out of the soil, you have the basics in place to drive the air out of the soil, extinguish soil biology and form chemical reactions that form a substance closer to concrete than healthy soil. Yet this is the prescription conventional farmers (counseled by University Extension Service personnel) blindly follow from coast to coast.

This formula also burns the carbon-rich organic matter out of the soil, thereby diminishing its water-retaining capacity.

Soils with compromised biology should not be expected to produce nutrient-dense food. This is not to say that organically grown food is more nutrient-dense than conventionally grown food. Organic farmers with a limited understanding of soil fertility can grow some of the least-nutritious food on the market. And conventional growers using more progressive techniques can produce very high-quality produce.

Dean Goodale

Manager, Vedic City Organic Farms

Vedic City, IA

Humans used to love soil, knowing the fruits it gave in return. I find the soil issue particularly of interest since I've been writing and publishing articles about water runoff from the land into the ocean, polluting it and its creatures, in turn polluting us. The cycle of our earthly water collects our pollutants and wastes, and comes back to us--through our air, our soil, our food, our water.

Diane Buccheri

Publisher, OCEAN magazine

Thank you for "The Scoop on Dirt." It was an extraordinary article. We should worship the ground because it is sacred, like everything there is. I disagree that the soil is unseen. I see it everywhere. Some call nature messy, though nature cleans its mess and makes black gold.

Mark J Burwinkel

Cincinnati, OH
COPYRIGHT 2007 Earth Action Network, Inc.
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Author:Burwinkel, Mark J.
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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