People Erode Soil 100 Times Faster Than Nature (article)

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Soil is washed away by the Chattahoochee River in the early 1970s.

Cutting down or burning native forests and starting intensive agriculture – that is, industrial-scale farming, designed to produce high yields of crops and/or animals — can accelerate erosion dramatically, reports a newly-published study from researchers at the University of Vermont.

It causes so much damage, in fact, that in a few decades as much soil is lost as would naturally occur over thousands of years.

NEWS: Are We At Risk For Another Dust Bowl?

The researchers, who studied 10 large river basins in the southeastern United States, found that the damage started to occur hundreds of years ago, when large numbers of settlers arrived from Europe, and accelerated as agriculture developed. Before the 1700s, hillsides along the rivers eroded at a rate of about an inch each 2,500 years. But by the time erosion peaked in the late 1800s and early 1900s thanks to logging and tobacco and cotton cultivation, the hills were losing an inch every 25 years.

“Our study shows exactly how huge an effect European colonization and agriculture had on the landscape of North America,” says one of the researchers, Dylan Rood, “humans scraped off the soil more than 100 times faster than other natural processes.”

The study was published in the journal Geology.

NEWS: Web App Helps Prevent Soil Erosion

The scientists came up with their findings by collecting sediment samples and then using an accelerator mass spectrometer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to help them measure the quantity of a rare isotope, beryllium-10, in quartz in the sediment. The isotope, formed by cosmic rays, builds up in the top of soil. As the erosion rate increases, the soil accumulates less beryllium-10.

Scientists say that across the planet, erosion by water and wind is as dire of a threat as climate change, which actually adds to the loss of soil.  A 2006 study by Cornell University researchers reported that around the world, soil is being swept and washed away 10 to 40 times faster than it can be replenished by natural processes. As a result, the planet is losing a quantity of cropland equal in size to the state of Indiana each year. Back in the 1930s, drought and poor farming methods caused a period of severe dust storms called the Dust Bowl, which caused an economic catastrophe for farmers.


Now this is a news story I wish we were hearing more about… but who cares about dirt, right?

That’s the problem.  Who cares about compost?

Compost is a huge part of the answer here, as it restores soil and helps prevent erosion.

I really, really hope that by the time I’m super old that humans are embarrassed of their past with landfills.

We’re completely out of tune.

If you want to take a major step in the right direction, start composting.

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Easy Low Cost Composting with Free Coffee Grounds and Wood Chips

Easy Low Cost Composting with Free Coffee Grounds and Wood Chips Alberta Urban Garden

Great video, but I have a few concerns: He mentions not adding meat to the compost pile… just add it.

Meat and dairy products are absolutely compostable, and although he mentions needing a hot pile to do so, interesting enough those very items heavily contribute to creating heat within a compost pile!

As long as you have at least double the amount of brown materials as you do food scraps/meat/dairy products, you’ll be fine.

This dude has plenty of energy and a large pile able to handle any meat he may have.

Also- I’ve never seen someone add so much dirt to a compost pile… while there’s nothing wrong with adding dirt, I don’t see quite enough brown materials here.

Instead of all the dirt, his pile would benefit even more from covering the entire pile with brown materials.

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Free Fungally Dominated Compost & Mulch

Free Fungally Dominated Compost & Mulch

Here’s yet another excellent video from Patrick showing the difference between microbial and fungally dominated compost piles.

The higher the carbon to nitrogen ratio, the more fungus you will have.  Other indicators of this are slower decomposition speed, and much lower temperatures (which fungi prefer).

Fungally dominated compost will increase soil diversity and supply nutrients to your plants.

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Compost for Spring: Leaves, Used Coffee Grounds, & Garden Waste (Leaf Compost)

Compost for Spring: Leaves, Used Coffee Grounds, & Garden Waste (Leaf Compost)

This time around, coffee grounds and sunchoke stalks are the main ingredients paired with leaves.

Since timing isn’t critical for obtaining finished compost, the leaves are unshredded.

Leaves are one of the few ingredients that compost on their own, so whether they’re shredded or not doesn’t matter…you’ll just get much quicker results by shredding them.

I like the hoop house idea for keeping the heat in and the worms warm…great video, Patrick!

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Turning The Fall/Winter Compost & the Worms are Alright!

Turning The Fall/Winter Compost & the Worms are Alright!

In this later part of the video series, he gets the Geobin to start his next round of composting.

I really liked his homemade bin, so I was surprised he shelled out some cash to get a bin.

He mentioned wanting something portable, durable, mobile, and able to hold material easier.

I think it should live up to that quite well.

He also gets excited about red wigglers, which are always a nice surprise with large compost piles.

Although he had winter temperatures well below zero, he still had red wigglers survive… resilient creatures they are!


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Our Fall/Winter Compost Pile: Ensuring A Steady Supply Of Free Compost

Our Fall/Winter Compost Pile: Ensuring A Steady Supply Of Free Compost

This is an excellent video showing how to build a perfectly OK compost bin out of chicken wire, and how to build the pile properly.

I like this dude.

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Hot Water from Compost (video)

Hot water from mulch compost water heater compost geothermal decomposition

Another great video from Green Power Science showing just how hot piles of organic material can get…even when you do nothing!

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Worm Bin Organisms

Worm Bin Organisms

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Getting Pickier with Plastics

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After reading a fair bit of material regarding microplastics in compost, I’ve decided to become more strict on what I contribute to my compost piles.

Up to this point, I’ve been experimenting with how much of an item will compost, even when I’m aware it contains some plastic.

For example, I’ve added quite a few ice cream cartons, chinese food containers, paper cups, and fast food waste that I dumpstered from several establishments.

The plan has been to pick out the plastic skeletons that remain when I screen my finished product…I’ve been doing that for a long time, with the most common example being the occasional produce sticker that I missed.

What’s the big deal anyway?  I’m not going to use my compost to grow anything at this point… I’d rather just use it for horticultural purposes.

If I throw “away” the chinese food carton, it gets landfilled and does nothing forever.

While it’s not as visibly obvious as pieces of styrofoam floating in a puddle or plastic bags dancing with the wind, microplastics in the environment are contaminating everything.

 A 2011 study by Woods End Laboratory states that all plastic-coated paper products (single or double coated) leave a trail of microplastics, whether the lining is made from LDPE, PET or clay with binders.

I screen plastic bits from my compost with a 1/4″ sieve, but there’s no way I will be able to remove strands of polyethylene that are 100 microns in size.

I never thought about it like that, but it makes perfect sense and I wish I would have realized this sooner.

Keep plastic coated paper products out of your compost.

The only exceptions are products certified as compostable.

Composting facilties need to ban all plastic coated paper products from entering their faciltiies, which can’t be easy.

Between the plastic garbage gyres, the plastic bag dilemma and now this huge contributor to plastics working their way up the food chain, we have a very serious problem to solve.

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Help Support a Community Composting Project!

[ original posting found here:   or here via google translate: ]

Recently, a gentleman by the name of Michal Vavrik emailed me asking for support with his sustainability project in his hometown of Zilina, Slovakia.

Michal is proposing a project that will utilize a communal compost bin for 12 households to share.  He has received approval from the Department of Environment, and if it goes well I can see that this model will spread.

Utilizing a shared compost bin in a mutually agreed upon location is the best scenario… a huge chunk of residencies are cramped apartments or spaces without a backyard or area to process food waste.

Composting is a great gateway into other forms of waste reduction, and the reality is that it’s simple to do with a little practice.

Kudos to Michal for taking on an essential project… let’s hope he wins the project!

Vote for him by clicking here:

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