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Cowdung helps restore mining-ravaged soils

Last Updated: Sunday, October 28, 2012 - 12:11

Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) Cowdung compost helps restore mining ravaged soils, according to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) research.

Thousands of acres of land with little or no vegetation, once mined for lead and zinc, blight parts of southwestern Missouri, southeastern Kansas, northeastern Oklahoma and other parts of the world.

The mining activities also leave behind a legacy of lead-contaminated acidic soils, toxic smelter sites and large quantities of mine tailings called "chat."

Soil scientists including Paul White at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, under USDA, wanted to determine whether adding cow manure compost to soil at such sites would provide the carbon needed to support a healthy plant cover, the journal Applied Soil Ecology reported.

Two years after the study began, the compose also increased microbial biomass, enzyme activity and nitrification potential, all of which create and support favourable conditions for plant establishment and growth, according to an ARS statement.

High rates of compost also lowered lead and zinc availability by about 90 percent, which may reduce the amount of lead and zinc that could run off and pollute nearby waterways.

Since high levels of bio-available zinc inhibit plant growth, this binding action also helps to promote the establishment of a vegetative cover that minimizes runoff and soil erosion.

First Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012 - 12:11

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