Sunday, June 5, 2022

Fake Meat: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

 

A repost from April 2020.  In today's age, when we are finding so many ways to argue and find sides, this article seems applicable. 

People can be picky and tricky.

In this self-conscious age, there are just as many opinions on how to eat healthy as there are personalities.  The list of diets people have clung to include low fat, low sodium, Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, no red meat, low starch, Paleo, Adkins, juice, intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and DASH.  Take your pick, and you’ll find someone who stands by it, and someone who can’t stand it. 

In the past few decades, vegetarianism and vegan lifestyles have become more popular, whether they believe it lowers cholesterol, extends people’s lifespans, saves animals, or saves the earth.  Vegetarianism eliminates meat from the diet (and vegans eliminate all animal products), and when you take something away—you have to put something in its place.  Humans need certain amino acids and vitamins that are readily found in meat—so creative ingredient management allows for many of these items to be replaced by products from plants high in protein.

Enter the veggie burger.  I remember my first taste of one of these in the 1990’s—a pressed, lumpy, chewy disk reheated from a freezer box that had little more flavor than the cardboard it was packaged in.  Modern “faux meat” or “plant-based protein” is supposed to look, taste, and act so much like the real thing that manufacturers claim they fool even the most devoted red meat eaters with their products. 

So even vegans can have a juicy burger, right? 

Not so quick.  Who are faux meat burger companies really targeting with their commercials?  When you have a cowboy who is used to eating red meat biting into a juicy burger, and then tell them you tricked them into eating processed plants, are you targeting the cowboy, or are you targeting the vegetarian?  I know some vegans who gag with the thought of biting into meat—much less watching a commercial of a juicy burger. 

But then there are the vegetarians who are trying to eat healthy.  Just because you see the word “plant-based” doesn’t mean it is healthier.  If they look at the ingredient list of one of these new veggie burgers, they are going to see some funny looking names, and a higher sodium content than regular beef.  And those people on Paleo diets and trying to eat less processed foods?  Don’t look at these faux meat puppies—imagine what has to be done to peas, rice, mung beans, potatoes, apples, etc., to make it look like beef. 

The beef folks have grabbed onto this concept to sell their product—and shoot down veggie burgers.  Their ads make fun of the ingredient list of the patty, and that it has to be highly processed to imitate what they naturally produce with one ingredient. 

So now, through advertising, we have people fighting each other—veggie or beef burger? 

 


Similarly, there is a fight between dairy milk producers concerned with almond and soy “milk” manufacturers taking over their market.  The alternate products are good for those with lactose difficulties—but dairy farmers don’t like that they use the word “milk” because they don’t come from animals.  They do have a point—I know someone who thought almond milk was just cow milk flavored with almonds, not a dairy free product that didn’t benefit the dairy producers.  This seems to me another advertising fight: are you on the side of soy/almond or cow milk?

You know who wrote about this years ago?  Dr. Seuss.  Remember the Sneetches?  Butter side up or down?  They launched a war over something as silly as food preference. 

Rings a bell, doesn’t it? 

Pretty soon, we’ll have the beef producers launching steaks at the pea and mung bean producers, and the almond producers shooting the dairy cattle with nuts.  THAT sounds nuts to me. 

As a consumer, it is your job to be informed.  Do your homework—know what you are buying, know what is good for you.  Don’t rely on advertising to tell you what you should be eating or doing.  And perhaps advertisers should be focusing more on the positive aspects, rather than picking fights with what they feel are their competitors. 

As far as what we should be eating:  who do you know that only eats one kind of food?  “Chicken only, thanks”.  “Lettuce every day”.  “But we had shrimp last night, Mom!”  Boy, that would be boring.  So unless you have Crohn’s or lactose intolerance or a proven reason to avoid eating what you are avoiding—I’ve found that variety really is the spice of life, and if you eat with moderation, and eat with mindfulness—chances are, you’ll do well.  And respect what’s on your neighbor’s plate, please. 

Can’t we all just get along? 

Hey—if we start agreeing to find a middle ground for our respective diets, maybe we can talk the politicians into reading some Dr. Seuss—and bring the Sneetches’ lesson to Washington, D.C.! 

Thanks for reading,

Julie S. Paschold

April 17, 2020

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Does Your Soil Have a Hangover?

 

Does your soil have a hangover?

An exploration into soil health

The result of being a two-time graduate of the agronomy program of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spending many hours as an undergraduate at the soil fertility research program working with Dr. Dan Walters, and slaving away at my graduate work with the USDA-ARS Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit associated with the agronomy department at UNL is that I have been lamenting the loss and retirement of many of the professors that taught me—the UNL soils team that was once so abundant seems to be sparse at the moment.  It is going through growing pains, awaiting reestablishment of its shaken foundation.  The Crop Production Clinic in Norfolk in 2020 was mostly geared toward pest management.  So when I saw an opportunity to view a soils presentation online given by a Lancaster County Extension Soils Specialist, I grabbed the chance.  Could there be hope? 

Aaron Hird spoke of soil health, and he used a good metaphor.  If he doesn’t mind, I’m going to “borrow” that idea and run with it.  Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. 

If you think of the soil as a body, then how do you take care of its health? 

Well, how do you take care of your own body? 

If you ate junk food, didn’t exercise, sat behind a desk all day and stared at a computer or laid on the couch and watched television or played on your smartphone constantly, how would you feel?  If you drank sugary drinks instead of water and ate only processed foods, how would your body respond?  You’d feel pretty cruddy, huh?  The more yuck you put into your body without building muscle, the more fat you will acquire—and the less energy you’ll have.  It doesn’t matter how much you sleep.  If you don’t put good stuff into your body, you won’t have the energy to do anything.  So your body will crave energy, but if you keep giving it the wrong stuff, it won’t use the food efficiently and won’t find the proper nutrients it needs.  You’ll get hooked on caffeine, eat more crap, and it’s a never-ending cycle. 

It’s the same thing with soil.  The microbes and plants living in the soil have certain requirements to stay healthy and living—the soil needs to eat healthy, too.  That’s why we soil sample and apply the correct fertilizer for the crop growing there each year.  But fertilizer isn’t enough.  You know how you feel when you wake up after a late night partying?  That’s kind of how the soil feels if you take too much out of it without putting the right stuff back.  Yeah, your soil’s going to get a hangover.  And just adding a bit of fertilizer doesn’t do the trick.  That’s like taking a vitamin and expecting to go back to normal.  That wouldn’t work for me! 



Soil needs the proper balance of air circulation, water, nutrients, ability to maintain and build structure, create habitats for microbes and other critters—a whole gamut of health considerations!  If you look at that list, it doesn’t look much different from ours—we need to breathe, drink, eat, build and maintain bones and muscles, and protect the microbiome in our gut, too. 

So when you are making your field plans this year—or just out tinkering in your garden or yard—please consider all of your soil’s needs!  It will thank you later, and you will reap the rewards. 



Thanks for reading!

 

February 5, 2020

Julie S. Paschold

Reference: Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County’s Successful Farmer Series, January 31, 2020: Soil Management:  https://lancaster.unl.edu/ag/successfulfarmerseries

Friday, March 11, 2022

I am: a poem

 I am

            drinking in tendrils

            of serenity

            that squeeze between

            the stones of stridence

            in my mind.

 

I am

            slurping swirls

            of sunshine

            that sing beyond

            the stars of darkness

            in my eyes.

 

I am

            tasting dewdrops

            of tenderness

            that slide from under

            the tension

            in my toes.

 

I am

            sipping drizzles

            of a dawning day

            that emerge from

            yesterday’s ashes

            on my lips.

 

I am

            swallowing spirals

            of inspiration

            that rise behind

            the dried grasses of dullness

            between my fingers.

 

I am

            guzzling whorls

            of energizing life

            that seep above

            the dying shards of emptiness

            in my heart.

 

 

I am

            persisting

            aiming to thrive

            despite the friction

            of desolation

            and madness

            that threatens

            to overtake

            and absorb

            my every being.

 

March 11, 2022

Tansy Julie Soaring Eagle Paschold

Sunday, March 6, 2022

That's Just Not Natural

 

That’s just not natural

Tricky advertising and common instincts in plants

 

I was walking down the produce aisle in my grocery store last week, grabbing the items from my shopping list derived from my planned menu for the upcoming few days.  I had sent my son on a mission for yellow onions, and I was going to look for fresh broccoli.  As I turned and looked up, a package caught my eye.  A bag of organic lemons.  They weren’t on my list, and I don’t find it necessary to pay extra for the fancy “organic” word—those are expensive letters!  What caught my eye wasn’t that they were any better than the regular lemons—there was no visual difference, actually.  It was the wording on the package.  I was so amused that I laughed out loud, and even pulled out my phone to snap a photo:



[First of all, a short comment about the “non-GMO”.  Yeah, so your lemons weren’t beamed down from the Starship Enterprise and created from an alien species.  Well, good for you.  Ha.  Not going into that with this blog.  And I definitely wouldn’t pay extra for those words to be printed on a package, either.]

What I laughed about was the “naturally seedless” part.  Have you heard people say the word oxymoron?  Then go on to use the phrases such as “jumbo shrimp”, “wise man”, “unbiased opinion”, and “genuine imitation”?  Well, folks, add “naturally seedless” to the list. 

What is Mother Nature’s one goal for EVERY SINGLE PLANT on this earth, regardless of where it is grown, why it is growing, how long it grows, or what it looks like?  For that matter, Mother Nature’s goal for every living species on this earth…….

……is to reproduce. 

A lemon is a fruit that grows on a tree.  A fruit is “a ripened, thickened ovary of a flower, which protects dormant seeds and aids in their dispersal”, according to my college Biology textbook. 

So every time you bite into an apple or an orange or a squeeze a lemon, you’re handling someone’s ovary.  Yup.  You read that right.  Plants have ovaries, just like people.  The seeds are their babies.  Mother Nature intends for each plant to develop progeny; that is why each lemon tree develops fruit with seeds—so little trees can emerge and take over when the parent tree gets too old. 

So a lemon without seeds?  That’s just not natural. 

 

**************************************************************

 

If a plant has an ovary, it means it has to get fertilized, right?  I mean, we were all taught about the sperm and the egg.  You can’t have a baby without both.  So if the fruit is the ovary, what the heck is the plant’s sperm? 

Well, ahem, do you sneeze a lot during the times that flowers are wide open and blooming?  Have you heard someone say they have “hay fever”?  Do you have to brush off yellow stuff when dancing through the daisies and prancing through the posies?  The sneezing is your irritation from the yellow stuff, which is pollen.  The pollen comes from stalks in the center of the flowers—and they are little tiny specks that float around, on a mission.  They are the plants’ sperm.  So that means you’re breathing in plant sperm on those fresh air walks.  [I’ll give you a moment to get over your heebie jeebies here.] 

Once a pollen grain finds the right place, it fertilizes the ovary, the flower dies, and the fruit is created, with the seeds inside. 

 

***************************************************

 

So what happens when the plant is stressed, dying, or somehow in trouble?  A plant will perform amazing feats in order to make its babies.  Even change genders. 

On a corn plant, the ear growing protected in husks lower on the side of the stalk is the female part of the plant—the kernels are the babies.  The male part of the plant is the tassel on the top, which creates all the itchy pollen that flies all over the place (including down your shirt, if you’re so unlucky to have to walk through a corn field during pollination).  If a corn plant is damaged somehow, like stepped on, cut off, drowning, sprayed with the wrong chemical, in a storm, or missing nutrients it needs, chances are the ear didn’t develop properly.  In that case, since pollen is a dime a dozen and it can get away with creating a tiny bit of its own and receive pollen from its neighbor, the stressed corn plant will change its tassel to become a partial ear. 

Just to prove I’m not pulling your leg, here’s proof:

 


I call it transgender corn.  Kinda neat, huh? 

 


 

Wow.  So it is more “natural” for a plant to be transgender than seedless!!!  

Yet another demonstration of why you shouldn’t believe everything you read in advertisements. 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

December 30, 2019

Julie S. Paschold

Reference: Biology: Concepts & Connections by Neil Campbell & Jane Reece & Larry Mitchell. 1994. Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc. Redwood City, CA

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Catch Words in Your Food

 

What do all those words mean on your food packages?



Okay, show of hands now.  When you go grocery shopping, how many of you look for “organic” or “natural” food?  Do you think “cage free” and “free range” eggs are the same thing?  Do you think brown eggs are better than white eggs?  Do you reach for the “non-GMO” packages?  Do you shun gluten? 

Another show of hands.  How many of you can actually explain the definitions of and differences between all these words?  Do you even know what gluten is? [hint—it’s not artificial gloppy goo…]  While researching the correct wording for some of these items, I stumbled upon some eye-rolling comments on certain websites.  I won’t go into much detail right now other than to say that I’m amazed at the diversity of intelligence on this planet. 

Here is some clarification on the meaning behind a few of the words you find on your food:

 

What does the USDA certified organic label mean?



The United States has federal guidelines each producer (crop or animal) must follow in order to earn that stamp on their product. 

·         Produce must be grown on soil that had no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides applied on it for three years prior to harvest (there’s a whole list of “prohibited substances”, including human waste). 

·         Animals must be grown in a way to consider their natural behaviors—like grazing and wandering—fed organically grown feed and forage, and not be given antibiotics or hormones (so if they are sick, they can’t get a “Z-pack” like you or I do). 

·         Processed foods can’t have artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and must have organic ingredients. 

·         If a packed product is “made with organic ingredients”, it means that the whole product isn’t organic, but some of the ingredients are.  It won’t have the fancy USDA seal on it. 

·         No organic foods contain genetically modified organisms (or GMO’s).  Genetically modified seeds are not used to grow the food, unless there is no other alternative. 

·         Some processing methods are prohibited in organic foods, like irradiation. 

There are USDA inspectors devoted to making sure producers of these items are indeed following the guidelines.  Each producer must carefully document everything—copious recordkeeping is involved, and in fields, setbacks are required so no carryover from neighboring fields drift over. 

 

What does “natural” mean?

According to the USDA website, “Natural” is allowed on packages when a product doesn’t contain an artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.  Minimal processing means that the product isn’t fundamentally altered.  The label claiming “natural” must also explain what is natural about it (such as no artificial ingredients, no added color, etc.).  Personally, this seems a little vague to me, but I interpret it to mean that if you look at the product and its ingredients, you’d be able to recognize them in their original form—not ground up or as a strange goo that came out of some factory somewhere.  Unlike hot dogs—hot dogs are definitely NOT natural. 

 

No hormones in pork or poultry?



No matter what you do to pork or poultry—no matter what kind of product it is turned into—pork and poultry will not have added hormones.  Federal regulations prohibit this.  So your bacon and chicken nuggets and turkey dinners and pork chops and ribs and loin and chicken strips and buffalo wings and ground turkey will be free of hormones.  Let me repeat that—HORMONES ARE NOT ALLOWED IN RAISING HOGS OR POULTRY. 

 

What is the difference between “cage free” and “free range” eggs?



·         Cage-free simply means that the birds don’t live in a cage.  All birds must have unlimited access to food and water, but cage-free birds are also “allowed to roam”, according to USDA’s website.  They aren’t required access to the outdoors.  To be humane (not for USDA, but for another organization called Humane Farm Animal Care, or HFAC), they need 1.5 ft2 of space each. 

·         Free Range takes it a step further, quite literally for the hen’s sake.  During her laying cycle, she must be able to go outside.  This doesn’t mean each bird is required to actually GO outside, but she has the option, usually through doors that lead to a screened in porch.  HFAC asks each bird to have 2 ft2 of space each. 

·         Pasture-raised is another word you might see being thrown around.  It isn’t regulated by USDA, but this calls for 108 ft2 of space for roaming with access to a barn for cover. 

In the end, the quality of the egg and its nutritional value doesn’t change when any of these words are used—it’s just a way of indicating how the hens were housed.

 

Is a brown egg better for you than a white egg?

Honestly, I think of skin color when I think of this question.  Just like we’re all the same inside no matter the color of our skin, egg quality is not affected by the color of its shell.  There is no nutritional difference between “browns” and “whites”, either. 

If you’ll notice, there is a variety of “browns” and “whites” out there.  It’s like going to a paint store and realizing there isn’t only one color of white paint.  [Will I choose “chalk white” or “white dove” or “ecru”?]  The difference is the breed of chicken laying the egg. And it just so happens that the breeds that lay brown eggs also tend to lay larger size eggs.  The price difference? The larger size brown egg is more expensive to produce (think amount of feed per weight of egg), and that is represented in the price you pay at the store. 

 

What is a GMO?

 


 GMO means “genetically modified organism”.  USDA terms genetic modification as “The production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods. Some countries other than the United States use this term to refer specifically to genetic engineering.”  USDA has a whole other definition for genetic engineering: “Manipulation of an organism's genes by introducing, eliminating or rearranging specific genes using the methods of modern molecular biology, particularly those techniques referred to as recombinant DNA techniques.”

Foods from genetically engineered plants must meet the same safety standards as foods derived from traditionally bred plants.  They go through the same tests, and are just as safe as those “non-GMO”s out there.  It’s just a ploy to get you to pay a little more for a fancy stamp. 

This is one of my biggest pet peeves, and there isn’t enough space to totally go into this.  Corn, soybeans, potatoes, squash, and apples are all crops that have been genetically altered. 

In the 1990’s genetic engineering wasn’t as technical as it is now, and some methods were used that caused concern—putting pieces of bacteria DNA in a corn plant to make it resistant to a pest, making crops resistant to certain herbicides so you can use the chemical to kill weeds.  Soon after, people started getting scared of GMOs, perhaps thinking we were going to turn into zombies or create the superbug that kills us all.  Now, we have more modern ways of “genome editing” that are basically ways of speeding up natural breeding.  So genetic engineering really isn’t as scary as it seems. 

 

Should my diet be gluten-free?  What is gluten?

First, if you don’t even know what gluten is, why are you trying to take it out of your diet?  Gluten is a group of proteins found in cereal grains (think bread—wheat, rye, and barley).  They are the proteins that make bread dough “stretchy” and able to rise during baking, and are found in the endosperm of the grain.  The grain is actually a seed, and the endosperm is the starchy part that feeds the plantlet until it can grow roots and shoots to make its own food. 

You should only be worried about gluten if you have a disease related to being allergic or intolerant to gluten.  This means you have gone to a doctor and s/he has diagnosed you with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.  Other conditions that may (but not always) require gluten free or reduced diets include irritable bowel syndrome and wheat allergy. 

Gluten isn’t unhealthy—they are proteins!  They just happen to be a group that some people can’t handle well, like lactose in milk. 



(image from North American Miller’s Association)

***************************************


This is my random comments section.  In perusing the medley of websites, I found some highly uninformed people (and some with no common sense).  I’d like to just make a couple of observations. 

·         One person mentioned canola oil.  This is a vegetable oil many people use in baking and you find it in some processed foods.  They thought it was the same thing as motor oil—and how can we be drinking something we put in cars?  People, canola is a plant.  It is a relative to broccoli, cauliflower, and mustard (yeah, mustard is a plant, too—shocker to some people out there, I know).  All oil, regardless of its source, is regulated by the same federal standards!  We aren’t drinking the same thing as our vehicles!  Yikes! 

·         In a discussion about biosolids on organic farms, a person mentioned that food should be grown without synthetic fertilizer, but we shouldn’t use biosolids either because all poop is gross.  First, biosolids are treated domestic sludge—people poop only, not animals.  They aren’t raw sewage; they’ve been treated and monitored and have nutrients as well.  Also, plants use nutrients in the soil to grow and create your food.  Each time you take a crop away from the field to use as food, you are taking some of the nutrients away from the soil, too.  So if you take something away, you must add something back.  If you can’t artificially create nutrients (fertilizer), you have to use something “natural”.  Thus, you’ve got to use poop.  And poop is just recycled food. 

·         The comment was made that we need to grow a variety of vegetables and fruits instead of corn and soybeans because “you can fit a lot of vegetables on 40 acres”.  Corn and soybeans aren’t grown the same as tomatoes and strawberries and so forth.  You can’t run a combine through 40 acres of jalapeno peppers or eggplants.  Harvest would be very time consuming and labor intensive.  Have you ever had a vegetable garden in your back yard?   The weeds in mine are atrocious because I just can’t get to them all—I think weed management in a 40 acre vegetable garden wouldn’t mirror a corn or soybean field.  It would be a giant headache.  There is an overall population trend away from rural areas.  Since everyone and their mother are moving to the city, who is going to grow these 40 acre monster vegetable gardens?  And the weather in the locations where most of the corn and soybeans are grown really wouldn’t allow year-round production.  What are you going to do when there’s a foot of snow on your 40 acres and its 20 degrees out? 

 

 

I agree that a person should shop smart and be careful about the type of food they eat and the ingredients that are in the products they buy.  Yes, read your food labels!  But I encourage everyone to become educated about what your food and its label is saying to you.  At least use your common sense, please.  And no drinking motor oil! 

 

October 4, 2019

Julie S. Paschold

 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Beyond the Horizons: Eating Your Soil

 

Beyond the Horizons—Eating Your Soil

Do you really understand what is under your feet… and what it took to get it there?

 

When I was young, I didn’t ponder on the purpose of that dark stuff under the grass.  It was something that got stuck under my fingernails and was fun to dig up and find bugs in.  It was everywhere—even in the house, if you didn’t wipe your feet. 

So when I opened my textbook on my first day of Soil Science 101, I was nervous.  I knew that there was more to soil than a block of dark matter that held roots and water.  I barely knew anything about farming, much less the intricate details of the teeming ecosystem underneath the crops I was learning about. 

But you know what?  The book actually had some familiar words!  Soil really isn’t that different from you or I in some regards, believe it or not. 

In my first blog, we established that soil is NOT dirt, and that dirt is soil where you don’t want it.   

But what is soil?

Soil is the natural medium for the growth of land plants. 



Therefore, not all of earth’s land surface is covered with soil.  If it can’t grow plants, it isn’t soil.  What isn’t soil?  Polar ice, high elevation areas, hardened lava, salt flats, and bare rock mountain slopes.  If an area has anything that would make a plant recoil its little roots and say “Nope, not going there”—that is not soil. 

Sounds simple, right?  Well, enter NASA and explorers asking about mineral substrates on other planets.  Have you read or seen “The Martian”?  Is that soil?  It isn’t on earth….is oxygen required to make something soil?  I’m not going down that path—that’s for another day and another argument. 

Where did soil come from?

Well, where did YOU come from?  Your parents, right?  Soil has a parent, too—the substance from which the soil was made is called its parent material.  Most soils came from minerals and rocks.  Parent materials go through chemical and physical processes called weathering over many, many years to create loosened material.  In this case, weathering doesn’t mean a soil is checking the radar or the forecasted high temperature.  It means a rock is being worn down into something useful to a plant.  So your mom isn’t the only one who is worn down.  And mom?  Next time you’re frazzled, you can say you are being weathered!  Ha! 



Why aren’t all soils the same?

You may have noticed that not all soils look alike.  Some are deep, almost black, crumbly, and grow just about anything.  Others are light tan, grainy, and seem to blow around too much.  Some soils are red, some salty, some deep, some barely there.  How a soil forms depends on these factors:

·         Parent Material: You aren’t the only one who inherited things from your parents!  Properties such as rates of weathering, nutrient composition, and particle size depend on the substances that the soil came from. 

·         Climate: Precipitation and temperature are the main things in a climate that affect how a soil develops. 

·         Biota: This is a fancy word for living things and their waste, including dead parts and poop of plants and animals of all sizes—even the ones you can’t see. 

·         Topography: This is how the earth’s surface is shaped.  A soil will be affected by how level or sloped the land is, elevation, and even what direction the soil is facing on the slope (does it see lots of sunshine, or is it hidden from the light and heat?). 

·         Time: A soil can take 200 to thousands of years to develop. 

What does a plant need from soil?

So if soil is a medium or substance that can grow plants, what is needed in order to call it soil?  Soil provides the following growth factors to plants:

·         Support: No, not positive affirmations, or tight pantyhose.  Plants need help standing up, and soil provides support as the roots grow into the substrate. 

·         Oxygen: It’s often misunderstood that a plant only gives off oxygen.  It is true that oxygen is a product of photosynthesis, but a plant also needs to breathe, and oxygen is required for this.  Roots need oxygen in the soil.  Little tiny spaces between the loosened parent material hold air that contains oxygen. 

·         Water: Part of those tiny spaces between soil particles hold water, too, and the roots absorb the water as they need it. 

·         Proper temperatures: The roots can’t freeze or fry.  Temperature requirements depend on the species. 

·         Nutrients: Plants require 16 nutrients, 13 of which are supplied by the soil, either by sticking to the soil particles themselves or being dissolved in the water in the pores. 

A soil has layers?

Nope.  And yes.  But read on. 

First, you have the weathering, or creation of small particles.  Then, you have soil development.  These two put together are called soil formation.  It doesn’t all happen at once.  If you dig a deep hole, from the top all the way down to the parent material at the bottom, you would see what looks like layers of soil.  But they aren’t layers. 

Layers are for cakes.



Don’t eat it.  It’s not a cake. 

These areas of variation are called horizons.  The horizon with the least amount of formation will be at the bottom, and the most developed horizon that will grow the best plants will be at the top. 

What kind of horizons are present depends on where you are.  Most soils in my area, the midwestern United States, have an A horizon (the topsoil, where you would find the roots and the most critters crawling around and where a farmer would till and plant crops), a B horizon (a little less developed than the A horizon), and a C horizon (resembles the parent material, but has started to break down).  There are many versions, amendments, subgroups, and additions to this basic idea. 

I can friend a soil on Facebook?

Ha.  Caught you there.  You know when you see someone that is particularly good looking from the side, and think, “nice profile”?  Well, a soil has a profile, too.  Does that mean it can fill out information on Instagram and post silly photos and quips? 

          “The earthworms are tickling me particularly vigorously this morning”

          “This rain is really bringing me to field capacity”

I heard you groan. 

We were just talking about the soil’s profile earlier and you didn’t even know it.  Remember that hole you dug from the top of the soil all the way down to the parent material so you could look at the horizons?  The collection of horizons is the soil’s profile.  A soil profile is a vertical section of the soil through all its horizons and extending into the parent material. 

 

Now that you’ve become a little more familiar with soil, I hope it makes you feel more grounded.  (You’re supposed to laugh here). 

And I hope since you learned that soil has a parent that it has worn down just like you, you’ll feel a little closer to it.  So the next time you see its profile exposed, you can tell it, “Gee, I like you’re A horizon”.  (Ahem….laugh again, please). 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

November 8, 2019

Julie S. Paschold

Reference: Soils in Our Environment by Raymond W. Miller & Roy L. Donahue. 1995. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, NJ