It is increasingly recognized that soils provide multiple benefits to people, the environment and the economy, and that healthy soils are fundamental for achieving them. Soil functions include providing food, fibre and fuel, decomposing organic matter and recycling nutrients, distributing rainwater, etc. However, the soil resource and the functions it provides are constantly threatened by a wide range of risks at different scales, from local issues such as inadequate management, local pollution and erosion, to global issues such as air pollution and, of course, climate change. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that these risks will continue or intensify in the coming decades.
The state of soils needs to be monitored to see how they are changing and to understand the pressures on them. Soil monitoring networks can be described as: “A purpose-built set of sites to document changes in soil characteristics through periodic assessment of a broad set of soil parameters”. The use of custom-built soil monitoring networks is the most effective way to reliably assess temporary changes in soil status at the territorial level. Soil quality monitoring networks have been in operation in many European countries for years; the LURSARE project, funded by IHOBE, aims to fill this gap in the Basque Autonomous Community. In this sense, it is initially proposed to address a design phase of a soil quality monitoring programme, selecting the sampling points, depth(s), sampling frequency, soil properties to be determined, methodologies, etc.
In collaboration with Arantza Aldezabal of the University of the Basque Country, we are co-directing the final degree works of June and Olatz, on the influence of the management of valley bottom cattle farms on soil health. SMEG is particularly interested in testing new simple field measurements (e.g., bait-lamina test, Solvita, a self-designed soil respiration test, soil nutrient measurement kits, different organic matter estimates, macrofaunal taxonomic assignments). These measurements will be validated with standard laboratory tests. Let’s go for it!
We have started a collaboration with the company Ceres-Biotics, which works on the development of biostimulant formulations for agriculture.
Neiker’s work in collaboration with Ceres-Biotics will be to test the effect of different inoculations on soil health, through the measurement of a variety of parameters related to the activity, biomass and diversity of soil microbial communities. General parameters will be measured, but also specific parameters related to the potentiality of the strains under study.
NO HEALTHY SOIL…NO FOOD.
Have you ever thought about what might happen if we don’t take care of the soils around us? Soils that are not healthy cannot produce food, do not have biodiversity and cannot fight climate change. And how does a healthy soil differ from an unhealthy soil? In this workshop we gave at the Food Fashion Festival Bilbao children became scientists to analyse different types of soil and discover how healthy they are and what they can produce.
We have recently signed an agreement with the Centre for Environmental Studies from Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) to carry out research on the recovery of degraded and contaminated sites around the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain). We will focus our research on the design and implementation of phytomanagement strategies to recover soil functionality and the provision of essential soil ecosystem services in degraded sites around the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Carlos Garbisu gave a TEDx talk in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4QAo6mWPoE) on the well-known problem of the dissemination of antibiotic resistance among bacteria. He focused his talk on the need to carry out research on Microbial Ecology to better understand the behaviour of bacteria in their natural environment, so that we can then design more effective strategies to fight bacterial pathogens and, alternatively, to learn from the incredible metabolic capacities found in the bacterial world.