Applying science and healthcare principles to soil wellness can help our planet

August 27, 2020 by  
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Applying science and healthcare principles to soil wellness can help our planet Poornima Param… Thu, 08/27/2020 – 01:00 Basic human health principles tell us that we should diagnose before we treat and that we should test before we diagnose.  From annual physicals and screenings to blood tests and imaging exams, providers and specialists have many new tools and resources to address the health issues we experience in real-time and to prevent new issues from arising. For example, our deepening understanding of DNA helps us discern how drugs, medication, multi-vitamins or treatment plans work differently in patients — creating a brand-new frontier, personalized medicine. Today, by leveraging advancements in technology and new medical discoveries, we are able to treat and prevent diseases and enhance our quality of life, health and wellness. Take the influx of at-home genetic testing kits that provides data on food sensitivities, fertility and predispositions to disease. These same principles of human healthcare, and these same scientific and technological advances, are starting to be applied to soil — our most important asset for securing our food supply. Soil at the center  Soil is one of the most important natural resources we have, yet we’ve degraded over a third of the soil used to grow food, feed, fiber and fuel with intensive farming practices. Healthy soil is critical for environmental sustainability, food security and the agricultural economy — even large food companies are starting to fold soil health efforts into their sustainability programs as they understand the impact it has on creating a viable, cost-effective supply chain.  Soil removes about 25 percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions each year through carbon sequestering, a natural way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. From a food security perspective, farmers can harness soil organic matter to ensure greater productivity of their fields and reduce erosion and improve soil structure, which leads to improved water quality in groundwater and surface waters. If we continue to apply science and technology — and at scale — we can address disease and deterioration of the soil, and we can give it the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. According to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation , a foundation whose mission is to catalyze change to improve the standard and quality of life, soil loss costs an estimated $400 billion per year globally. Undoubtedly, soil is foundational to human life, yet we know very little about the soil itself. We need to get to know our soil if we want a science-based, data-driven agricultural ecosystem. The first step in improving the health of the planet, the quality and quantity of our food, and the prosperity of agricultural businesses is soil wellness. And now we have the tools to investigate.   A global, comprehensive soil intelligence project Agronomists are agricultural specialists — soil doctors — who test, touch and smell our soil to assess the earth’s physical and chemical characteristics to determine how to make it most productive, now and going forward. They ask questions such as: Does the soil have large or small pockets of air? Does it have a silty, sandy or clay loam texture? What are the phosphorous levels of the field? Based on their findings, they might recommend chemical inputs or physical measures farmers can take such as adding tiles to the field to help with drainage, planting cover crops or adding a new crop to rotation to reduce depletion of certain nutrients from the soil to improve its resiliency.   Problematically, agronomists have a dearth of information on the biomes that makes up our soil. Over 10,000 species and 100 billion actual specimens of bacteria are in a single handful of soil. More biodiversity is in the earth beneath our feet than in all above ground ecosystems combined. Without the ability to account for the biological make up of soil, our agronomists, farmers, chemical and fertilizer providers, food companies, environmental scientists and more cannot fully diagnose, treat or increase the wellness of the soil to grow more food, farm profitably or capture more carbon.   The agriculture, food, environment, science and technology communities are collaborating to change this. Combining microbiology, DNA sequencing, data science and machine learning, we can digitize the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the soil to generate evidence-based, actionable soil intelligence. This allows agricultural stakeholders to better identify and prevent disease, understand soil nutrients to make better planting decisions and preserve and restore our deteriorating top soil. Then you add in hyperspectral imagery technology, which collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum to help collect and determine soil properties and composition. Alternatively, farmers can use a method called the Haney test to evaluate soil health indicators such as soil respiration and water-soluble organic carbon. Automated sensors can monitor and measure soil’s physical traits, such as respiration and temperature, with predicted development towards the measurement of soil’s biogeochemical properties.  This is all in an effort to gather data to create intelligence that can help us better understand how to improve the health of the earth beneath our feet. What does it look like in action? Like a 23andMe test but for the soil, farmers can sample their soil and know if their field is at high-risk of certain diseases or nutrient deficiencies based on soil composition; this allows them to make informed decisions about which crop to plant, how many inputs are needed, what kind of and how much fertilizer to use — all based on known risks.  This isn’t unlike taking our daily vitamins. A 2019 survey showed that 86 percent of Americans consume dietary supplements for their overall health and wellness, yet only 24 percent of those had information indicating a nutritional deficiency. Not every vitamin is needed, and not every treatment plan will work for everyone. The same goes for our fields.  The same health and wellness interventions we use on ourselves can and should be applied to our living soil. If we continue to apply science and technology — and at scale — we can address disease and deterioration of the soil, and we can give it the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive.  Hurdles to jump moving forward  There are hurdles to scaling and applying science to soil — from lack of regulations and investment to upending the status quo — but it’s essential we address them as soil health has vast implications, above and below ground.  Investing in intelligence to drive agricultural decisions rather than reverting to traditional practices is a major obstacle. According to the latest AgFunder Agri-FoodTech Investing Report, $19.8 billion was invested in agrifood tech across 1,858 deals in 2019. The report shows that the largest year-over-year growth in funding was for downstream innovations such as meat alternatives, indoor farming and robotic food delivery. Investment in startups operating upstream, or closer to the farmer, increased 1.3 percent year over year. There’s a significant opportunity to boost investment for upstream innovations — and nothing is more upstream than soil.  Today, farmers are experiencing setbacks due to the pandemic. According to the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Research Institute, this year, farmers face losses of more than $20 billion . Taking a risk to try new practices or invest in new technologies weighs heavy on these communities. Combining microbiology, DNA sequencing, data science and machine learning, we can digitize the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the soil to generate evidence-based, actionable soil intelligence. Embracing regulation to protect the planet is also key to creating real change for our soil, air and water. Take the phase-out and eventual ban on methyl bromide , a fumigant used to control pests in agriculture and shipping: Methyl bromide used to be injected into the ground to sterilize the soil before crops are planted, with 50 to 95 percent of it eventually entering the atmosphere and depleting the ozone layer, until it was phased out from 1994 to 2005 .  Furthermore, diseases are spreading quickly due to climate change and expanding global trade. For instance, seeds are grown and traded around the world, and there are many examples where diseases in agriculture that originated in other countries have spread across the world in a matter of weeks or months via the seed market. This can have a huge economic toll on food security, quality and production.  Monitoring, measuring and regulating our ecosystem, along with the substances that we put into our ecosystem and the practices we use to create a global food and agricultural economy, is vital as we work to create a healthier, more vibrant earth for ourselves and future generations. This is an urgent need because of the state of our soil and the depletion of our topsoil. If we continue to use soil the way we are today, we’ll have only 60 more cropping cycles left.  Now is the time to build a cohort of stakeholders — including farmers, chemical manufacturers, small and large food brands, policy makers, activists, scientists and technologists — armed with information on what good soil looks like, why we should care about what’s under the surface and what immediate and long-term impact soil wellness can have our world to fast-track innovation and positive change.  Pull Quote If we continue to apply science and technology — and at scale — we can address disease and deterioration of the soil, and we can give it the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. Combining microbiology, DNA sequencing, data science and machine learning, we can digitize the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the soil to generate evidence-based, actionable soil intelligence. Topics Food & Agriculture Health Care Food & Agriculture Health & Well-being Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Applying science and healthcare principles to soil wellness can help our planet

Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots

August 27, 2020 by  
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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots Heather Clancy Thu, 08/27/2020 – 00:02 This week marks the launch of the first regional chapter of the ambitious global movement to plant 1 trillion trees  — a natural climate solution seen as critical for helping draw down the earth’s carbon debt, and an idea that has been spreading like wildfire since it was planted in January in Davos, Switzerland. There are more than two dozen launch partners for the new U.S. branch of 1t.org, spearheaded by the World Economic Forum and American Forests. Collectively, the group — which includes tech giants Microsoft and Salesforce, consumer products companies Timberland and Clif Bar, financial services powerhouses Bank of America and Mastercard and the cities of Detroit and Dallas — hopes to grow more than 855 million trees covering 2.8 million acres. It’s a bold goal, especially poignant in the context of the devastating forest fires raging in California, which have claimed more than 1.2 million acres (and counting) as of Tuesday afternoon. “That is a reforestation debt that is now due and owing,” said Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, when we chatted earlier this week. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American forests and forest products are responsible for capturing 15 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions captured from burning fossil fuels. By conserving, restoring and growing trees, the country has the potential to capture double the emissions, estimates a study advanced by The Nature Conservancy. The 1t.org organization, which includes a bipartisan stakeholder council with representatives from governments, businesses, nonprofits and academia, was created to scale the collective resources of those making tree-related commitments, Daley said. As an example, a tool for calculating the carbon emissions that could be reduced through specific reforestation efforts is under development. It’s also working on scaling financing mechanisms. A controlled burn to stop incoming wildfire in Mendocino, California. Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.   The chapter is also prioritizing efforts that can “remedy gross inequities” by bringing trees back to urban neighborhoods and by placing the potential for job creation at the center of plans, Daley said. The World Economic Forum estimates that sustainable forestry management has the potential to create up to 16 million jobs by 2030 — and more than $230 billion in new economic opportunities.  There’s also a very clear environmental justice issue to address. The map of tree canopies across the United States closely mirrors income, race and health issues — with low-income communities sorely lacking. “We are not going to plant as many trees in cities, but every one of them will have an impact,” Daley said. “It is central to our vision.” The city of Dallas , for example, is pledging to conserve and restore close to 14.8 million trees as part of its urban forestry management plan. Tucson, Arizona, is planning to plant 1 million over the next decade. Detroit and Boise, Idaho, are pledging fewer, but they’re also part of the launch. Salesforce wrote headlines in January for its commitment to restoring and planting 100 million trees; Mastercard is looking to restore or protect the same number over the next five years through its Priceless Planet Coalition . The effort links the activities of cardholders to forest conservation initiatives. For example, corporate cardholder accounts can influence donations to the fund with through spending. Mastercard’s partners in the effort include Citibank, Santander UK, Saks Fifth Avenue and American Airlines. Kristina Kloberdanz, chief sustainability officer for Mastercard, said her company became involved with 1t.org because of its expertise in forestry issues. “We know the business we are in,” she said. “We are not the experts in tree planting. It’s really important to us that we do this right. That we galvanize and motivate. This is bigger than any one of us.” When I asked Kloberdanz what sorts of initiatives Mastercard plans to prioritize, she said agroforestry — where tree preservation is incorporated into broader agricultural strategies — is part of the plan. “We are most interested in planting where there is going to be a benefit to the climate, but we’re also interested in the community and biodiversity benefits as well,” she said. Topics Forestry Carbon Removal Social Justice Natural Climate Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Kuldeep Singh, nursery manager for the L.A. Moran Reforestation Center in Davis, California. Courtesy of American Forests Close Authorship

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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots

How can large asset owners make the most of nontraditional risks?

January 24, 2020 by  
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The new world of risk includes the physical and economic impact of climate change and the unknown path of future technology.

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How can large asset owners make the most of nontraditional risks?

Ratings giant Moody’s buys big chunk of California climate-risk data firm

July 30, 2019 by  
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The focus is on the physical damages that could be caused by heat stress, water stress, extreme precipitate, hurricanes, sea-level rise and more.

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Ratings giant Moody’s buys big chunk of California climate-risk data firm

6 Simple DIY Cleaning Solution Recipes

June 29, 2016 by  
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While many people don’t like the physical act of house cleaning almost everyone likes the end result — a clean home. There is just something about that new, crisp unpolluted landscape – if only just temporary.  Now when it comes to the…

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Trash Cafe: Newcastle Students Unveil Pop-Up Coffee Shop Made From Recycled Cardboard

April 17, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of Trash Cafe: Newcastle Students Unveil Pop-Up Coffee Shop Made From Recycled Cardboard Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: green design , Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) , plastic waste , plastic waste reuse , pop-up cafés , Recycled Materials , recycled waste , recycling , student recycling project , Trash Café Newcastle , U-café Newcastle University , Upcycling Newcastle University , waste recycling        

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Trash Cafe: Newcastle Students Unveil Pop-Up Coffee Shop Made From Recycled Cardboard

Ann Oliver’s Xeni Collection Is a Fashion Label for People with Physical Disabilities

March 31, 2012 by  
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For many of us, dressing ourselves in clothes that look good and fit our bodies comfortably is something we take for granted. For those dealing with severe arthritis, amputations, multiple sclerosis and other physical disabilities, shopping for clothes can be more of a challenge. Enter Xeni, a clothing line started by Ann Oliver, a former architect with MS. The line of clothing addresses some of the shortfalls of conventional garments, replacing buttons with magnets, for example, and accommodating prosthetic limbs and medical accoutrements. READ MORE > Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Ann Oliver , arthritis , clothing , disabilities , Fashion , multiple sclerosis , Xeni Collection

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Ann Oliver’s Xeni Collection Is a Fashion Label for People with Physical Disabilities

6 Ways Companies Can Address Their Water Scarcity Risks

July 15, 2011 by  
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Corporate concern about water shortages is on the rise, and there are a growing number of tools available to help companies avoid the physical, reputational and regulatory risks that running afoul of water scarcity can pose.

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6 Ways Companies Can Address Their Water Scarcity Risks

Curb Your Footprint: Curb Your Appetite

February 27, 2010 by  
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Jeff Garlin weighs in on going green.

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Curb Your Footprint: Curb Your Appetite

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