One of the greatest problems facing the agricultural industry today is degraded soil. Soil is often over-farmed and isn’t allowed enough time to lie fallow, in turn wearing out over time. However, researchers at the Department of Agriculture are looking to turn this stock of degraded soil into prime material for one of the best all-American past times: high school football fields. Scientists have found that by adding a few secret ingredients — mainly composted chicken litter and other industry by-products — you can take worn out soil and make it new again.

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The problem with turf is that it needs to be replaced frequently — you’ll recall that football fields are often marked with sad brown spots in highly treaded areas. Typically the solution has been for maintenance teams to dig up the grass, till the soil and then replace it all with a new layer of soil and grass. But with DOA’s new designer soils, this whole process is simplified through a combination of the composted chicken litter concoction (which is actually just saw dust, sugar cane, peanut shells or other dry absorbent materials that don’t actually require contact with chickens before its use) and a hardy perennial grass. The soils stay rich while the grass varietals dig their roots deeper into the soil to obtain nutrients therefore tilling themselves.

The problem of soil degradation is a huge problem worldwide, and the winner of the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge was chosen for his feasible solutions to the desertification in Africa. We’re certain that these DOA researchers could spread their knowledge from turf to developing nations — there must be enough chicken litter to go around — and perhaps help aid in this issue worldwide. DOA researchers have also looked into using quarry byproducts to create nutrient rich soil and have tested their product on lawns, former landfills, mine lands and other worn lands.

Via Science Daily