(Sicilian farmers look) Back to the future

Wheatfield with Crows, by Van Gogh. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Wheatfield with Crows, by Van Gogh. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Sicilian farmers are returning to cultivate ancient seed. This is to recover the ancient wisdom that feed the island and Italy since ancient times. Giuseppe Li Rosi is a local farmer and one of the strongest supporters of the return to traditional agriculture. He has converted a property of 100 hectares to traditional farming and proudly guards three local seed varieties (“Timilia”, “Maiorca” and “Strazzavisazz”), keeping at least 10 hectares for each one. Continue reading

A young researcher from IRNAS-CSIC and the University of Seville awarded in the Pyro2016

Nicasio, during the award ceremony.
Nicasio, during the award ceremony.

Nicasio T. Jiménez-Morillo, PhD candidate at the University of Seville, has been awarded with the best scientific contribution presented during the XXI International Symposium on Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis (Pyro 2016).
The young researcher was awarded with the Frontier-Labs Young Scientist Award to best scientific contribution in the form of poster presented during Pyro 2016. The young scientist was awarded last May 12th during a ceremony celebrated at the city of Nancy (France) Town Hall.
The work entitled “Soil organic matter alternations resulting from post-fire restoration actions” was made in collaboration between IRNAS-CSIC MOSS (Organic Matter in Soil and Sediments) and the  MED_Soil research group (Univ. of Seville).

Find Nicasio’s profile at Google Scholar.

Turning unproductive soil into profits

Preeti Roychand

La Trobe University
AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Sandy soils in Western Australia are bad soils for growing plants due to their poor nutrients and water holding capacity (see an example in Figure 1). In general, these soils are water repellent, which leads to land degradation by increasing soil erosion risk and run-off rates. Nevertheless, these soils may be improved by clay addition, which leads to increase soil organic carbon content (Franzluebbers et al. 1996). Several ways have been used to increase soil organic carbon content in soils: i) no-tillage systems, ii) addition of bio char , iii) organic amendments or fertilizer addition and iv) switch to perennial plants. But there is another potential method for enhancing soil organic carbon storage in soils which has received little attention: mixing of isolated clay with sandy soils. Continue reading

Fire and soil microorganisms: where should we focus on?

Gema Bárcenas-Moreno
University of Seville, Sevilla, Spain

Currently, the complexity of soil microbial ecology on soil systems is a hot topic in the environmental sciences, since the scientific community has achieved a deep knowledge of the relevance of microorganisms in soil processes. After several decades of study of the effects of wildfires on soils, one of the main conclusions is that soil microbial populations are very sensitive to fire, which allows us to use them as a tool to assess the impact of fire on ecosystems.

Polysaccharides distribution due to microbial colonization in a soil microaggregate. Credit: Imaggeo/Maria Hernandez-Soriano. Click the image for more information.
Polysaccharides distribution due to microbial colonization in a soil microaggregate. Credit: Imaggeo/María Hernández-Soriano. Click the image for more information.

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Soil science, food production and hunger in Africa

A child dies from malnutrition or related causes every five seconds. Every child who dies from hunger is assassinated. And we have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror. We have to put a stop to this.

Jean Ziegler

Soil as a resource

A long history of land use

Ever since man learned to cultivate, soil has been considered as a source of food for humanity. Agriculture was born during the Neolithic period, when the economy of human societies evolved from gathering, hunting and fishing to farming and ranching. The first known crops were wheat and barley. Cultivation of cereals and legumes favored the development of the population during the Neolithic, and the development of agricultural techniques such as the use of domesticated animals, irrigation, or intensive farming encouraged the development of civilizations in the Fertile Crescent, Egypt, India, China or America. In the West, improved cultivation techniques favored the development and expansion of agriculture during Roman times and the Middle Ages, further improving the living conditions of farmers. Especially since the discovery of America (AKA collision against Europe), globalization of agricultural products initiated.

Fruits and vegetables in the Mercado Libertad, in Guadalajara (Jalisco, Mexico). By A. Jordán. Click to see the original picture at Imaggeo.

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Wildfires and soil: Where are we now?

Lorena M. Zavala. University of Seville, Sevilla, Spain
Antonio Jordán. University of Seville, Sevilla, Spain

Jorge Mataix-Solera. University Miguel Hernández, Elche, Spain
Artemi Cerdà. University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

Are wildfires a natural ecological factor or an environmental problem?

According to official statistics, during the 1990’s, about 1.5 millions ha were burned in Spain. In the first decade of this century, the burned area in Spain also surpassed one million hectares. To put it in conventional TV surface units, the burned area in the past 20 years equals the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz, or 274,000 soccer fields. The effects caused by the fire on the soil have been studied over the past 20 years by research groups who have made a significant contribution to the advancement and improvement of scientific knowledge.

Area affected by wildfires in Spain between 1991 and 2010.
Area affected by wildfires in Spain between 1991 and 2010. Source: Spanish Ministry of Agrictulture, Food and Environment.

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Monday paper: Simulating microbial degradation of organic matter in a simple porous system using the 3-D diffusion-based model MOSAIC

Monga, O., Garnier, P., Pot, V., Coucheney, E., Nunan, N., Otten, W., and Chenu, C.: Simulating microbial degradation of organic matter in a simple porous system using the 3-D diffusion-based model MOSAIC, Biogeosciences, 11, 2201-2209, doi:10.5194/bg-11-2201-2014, 2014.


This paper deals with the simulation of microbial degradation of organic matter in soil within the pore space at a microscopic scale. Pore space was analysed with micro-computed tomography and described using a sphere network coming from a geometrical modelling algorithm. The biological model was improved regarding previous work in order to include the transformation of dissolved organic compounds and diffusion processes. We tested our model using experimental results of a simple substrate decomposition experiment (fructose) within a simple medium (sand) in the presence of different bacterial strains. Separate incubations were carried out in microcosms using five different bacterial communities at two different water potentials of −10 and −100 cm of water. We calibrated the biological parameters by means of experimental data obtained at high water content, and we tested the model without changing any parameters at low water content. Same as for the experimental data, our simulation results showed that the decrease in water content caused a decrease of mineralization rate. The model was able to simulate the decrease of connectivity between substrate and microorganism due the decrease of water content.


Biogeosciences (BG) is an international scientific journal dedicated to the publication and discussion of research articles, short communications and review papers on all aspects of the interactions between the biological, chemical and physical processes in terrestrial or extraterrestrial life with the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. The objective of the journal is to cut across the boundaries of established sciences and achieve an interdisciplinary view of these interactions. Experimental, conceptual and modelling approaches are welcome. More at Biogeosciences homepage.