• Cover crops continue to work their way onto fields across the Midwest.

  • Soils can help us solve two of the most pressing problems of the coming decades: climate change and food shortage.

  • Most of us considered microbes little more than nasty germs before science recently began turning our view of the microbial world on its head.

  • Paul Overby believes in trial and error. Since 1993 he and his wife, Diane, have been running Lee Farms, the family farm spread over 1,400 acres (5.5 km sq) in North Dakota, near the US-Canada border. In that time they’ve changed course quite a few times: diversifying the grains they grow, starting to manage the soil according to individualised zones, limiting the tillage of the land, and experimenting with planting cover crops alongside their main commodity crops.

  • There are an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 species of micro-organism per gram of soil. Addition of certain microbes can tailor soil characteristics: removing contaminants, improving fertility and even making barren land available for farming.

  • Perhaps because there are no chimney stacks belching smoke, the contribution of the world’s farms to climate change seems somehow remote.

  • Pesticides are causing widespread damage to the tiny creatures that keep soils healthy and underpin all life on land, according to the first comprehensive review of the issue.

  • The soil profile is an important tool in nutrient management.

  • Soils provide many important functions for plants, animals and humans. The most obvious is for supporting growing crops, plants and trees in the wild, on the farm and in our gardens - but there are lots of others too. For example soil is very important as a home, or habitat, for the teeming millions of soil organisms. It is quite amazing how much variety of life exists in soil.

  • South Africa is a major producer and exporter of agricultural products. The diversified agricultural sector produces a wide variety of agricultural commodities based on both large-scale commercial farming and small-scale family farms.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS OF THE DAY