Sunday, May 18, 2008

Roots 01

Koeleria cristata - June Grass

Zea Mays - Corn

Three species of bluestem or beard grasses - Andropogon furcatus , A. scoparius, A. nutans

Smilacina stellata - false Solomon's seal

I have finally heard back from the botanical gardens in Sydney and it seems that things are as i suspected... herbariums do not, as a general rule, collect and preserve the root systems of a plant as part of the collecton/preservation process attributed to a species. To get the dirt (ha) on root systems, one needs to hit up the soil scientists. Or the crop specialists. The botanists seem to be mostly concerned with the bit of the plant that pokes out above the earth...

And all this despite at least 50%, usually more, of a plant exists beneath the earth, not above it... all those stories of tree roots that stretch across fields, or under and across suburbs, in search of that leaky pipe. Thru my other life at Milkwood, I'm now fairly worded up on just how scarce good information on root systems and soil biology and all things sub-terranian are. It's surprising. Yes, there's pockets of great info out there, but in comparison to other biological sciences and areas of research, the stuff under our feet is a complete and utter mystery.

I tend to suspect that a portion of blame lies with the 'green revolution' (ie the post-WWII age of chemical fertilizer) for this... and, as Dr Elaine Ingham has pointed out constantly throughout her career as a maverick soil scientist, there is no such thing as academic research without funding. And guess where 99.9999% of funding for all research pertaining to plants and soil and crops come from? yup. And so, apart from some luminary beacons in the dark such as the Soil Food Web Institute, if you want to research soil and plant roots, you better dig deep, and deeper than deep.

Also the soil and health website has, I rekon, the best resource list on all things beneath the crust...

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