The Science of Soil: Introduction (02:29)
This segment orients viewers to the topic of soil, its complexities, and its importance.
Nutrient Replenishment (03:31)
Chris Beardshaw discusses plants' inability to extract nutrients from leaves and twigs lying on the ground. He takes a soil core sample and identifies the different horizons.
Fungi release nutrients which allow plants to continue to grow. The chord-like structures exude enzymes which break down the structure of wood or leaves.
Wood Decay Fungi (01:55)
Learn what happens as fungus breaks down leaves and twigs. Microphotography reveals creatures reliant on nutrients released by fungi.
Ecosystem Engineer (02:22)
Learn why the earthworm has the greatest impact on soil.
Prof. Mark Hodson explains what and how worms eat, and worm bacteria. In an average field, earthworms get through 1.5 tons of plant matter every year.
Complex Interconnected Structures (01:32)
Plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria work together to keep nutrients flowing from the dead to the living.
Soil Experiment (01:38)
Beardshaw determines how much of the dried topsoil is derived from plants.
Scolly's Cross, Aberdeenshire (02:04)
A landslide exposed soil layers beneath the pine forest. Beardshaw examines and explains the horizons.
Soil Profiles (04:27)
Rock fragments come in three distinct types based on size. Dr. Jason Owen demonstrates how different sizes affect soil. Learn about soil surface area and electrical charge in clay particles.
Ideal Soil (01:37)
See what good soil should look like. Experts discuss the combination of sand, silt, and clay.
Physical Weathering (03:08)
Malham Cove provides a window to the Earth before there was soil. Experts explain the first stage of rock breakdown- expansion.
Chemical Weathering (01:45)
Experts drop hydrochloric acid onto limestone to simulate what happens to rock when it rains. Insoluble residue, sediment, is the beginning of soil.
Lichen's Role in Soil Development (01:53)
Algae and fungus live in one body. Fungi breaks down rock to release nutrients it can feed on. Organic matter mixes with sediment, forming soil.
Impacting Soils (03:23)
In 9,000 years, humans have done more to change our soils than in the previous 400 million years. Continual fen drainage in East Anglia resulted in the land sinking four meters since 1850.
East Anglia Fens (02:46)
Experts examine a peat profile. Plant materials build up, instead of breaking down, causing carbon sinks. Learn what happens when the fens are drained.
Disrupting Soil Balance (02:12)
Human activity caused the loss of four meters of peat in East Anglia. Beardshaw discusses the 1930s Dust Bowl in North America.
Soil Crisis (02:21)
Cultivating, tilling, and fertilizing the soil destroys its structural balance. See the impact on an asparagus farm in Ross-on-Wye.
Water Erosion (02:09)
Dr. Rob Simmons studies the energy within individual raindrops to better understand rain's impact on the soil. His knowledge helps an asparagus farmer make farming changes.
Removing Energy from Rain (03:16)
Simmons tests rainfall simulators on wheelings; straw significantly reduces runoff. An asparagus farmer discusses his reactions to technology deployed in the field.
Soil Review (00:57)
Beardshaw reflects on the importance of soil and its composition.
Credits: Deep Down and Dirty: The Science of Soil (00:48)
Credits: Deep Down and Dirty: The Science of Soil
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