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Could we regenerate soils with sound waves?

Agriculture & Energy

Sound could accelerate the growth of soil microbes to restore degraded land

Spotted: Microbes are central to all life on earth, and this includes microbes in the soil. Just one teaspoon of topsoil contains around 10,000 different species of microbes, according to the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and these organisms play vital roles such as enhancing crop fertility, removing pollutants, and regulating carbon storage and greenhouse gases. Concerningly, though, it’s thought that a third of the world’s soils are now at least moderately degraded.

One novel method to reverse this degradation appeared in a recent research study conducted at Flinders University. The study found that, much as humans are energised by dance music, fungi respond to noise in the soil.

In the experiment, regular teabags were buried in soundproof boxes. The researchers found that material exposed to high-pitched monotone soundwaves at 80 decibels for 14 days produced more fungal growth than the control group, which was exposed to only 30 decibels of noise. Overall, the high-decibel tea bags gained around half a gramme more biomass than the controls.

Dr. Jake Robinson, a microbial ecologist at Flinders University and a lead author on the paper, pointed out, “Our study also highlights the importance of soundscapes in nature. We can now listen to the sounds [of] tiny animals as an indicator of soil health, but we might also be able to apply sound to improve soil health.”

Scientists are only recently beginning to understand the vital importance of the soil microbiome to carbon emissions and soil health. Other research that Springwise has spotted includes using microalgae to turn sand into soil and building healthy soils using basalt.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Email: jake.robinson@flinders.edu.au

Website: flinders.edu.au

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