UN scientists to unearth the secrets of soil
LONDON - U.N. scientists promoted bug-friendly farming last week when they launched a global project to find natural methods to boost tropical crop yields.
Experts are convinced that tens of thousands of obscure organisms which live just below ground could be the key to restoring damaged and degraded lands without the need for pesticides and fertilisers.
\"The life forms living just below our feet are the most understudied organisms on the planet,\" said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme which has set out to unravel the mysteries of subterranean life.
\"Harvesting the secrets of this understudied realm promises huge benefits and improved knowledge towards the goal of delivering sustainable development.\"
Scientists said the key role of underground organisms such as earthworms and termites was as \"biological ploughs\" and suppliers of soil nutrients.
In India scientists used worms to regenerate soils at degraded tea plantations where yields have stalled despite heavy use of fertilisers and plant growth hormones.
\"After the re-introduction of earthworms including native species, harvests at some of the plantations are up as much as 282 percent, and profits up by as much as $5,500 per hectare per year,\" UNEP said in a news release.
The $26 million project will initially target seven tropical countries including Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya in a bid to spread awareness of conserving soil life forms to farmers, conservationists, and governments.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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