Market Science on May 9th was all about the world beneath our feet.


Pick one object around you — it can be your shirt, your tv, your phone, your shoe — and try to trace back its manufacturing without referencing soil. You’ll find it impossible for almost everything in your home! Your shirt? Made of cotton? Grown in soil. How about the milk in the fridge? The cows it came from were fed with vegetable products that grew in soil, and the plastic jug you bought it in was likely manufactured using electricity from a power plant burning coal, which comes from ancient plant material that, you guessed it, relied on soil to grow. Our drinking water gets filtered through the soil, and soil microorganisms recycle organic material into nutrients that can then be reused by plants, and later, us!

Soil is truly one of our most valuable natural resources. Visitors to Soils Day at Market Science were able to look at soil under the microscope to see that it’s incredibly diverse, with large sand grains dwarfing the minuscule clay particles. We learned that the four main ingredients of soil — air, water, minerals, and organic matter — combine in unique “recipes” to create over 70,000 different types of soil in the U.S. alone!IMG_20150509_101115

At the booth we had soil from the banks of the Mississippi (very low in organic matter) and soil from a patch of forest in St. Paul (high in organic matter) — when we poured hydrogen peroxide into these soils, we saw it reacting with the organic matter to form bubbles of carbon dioxide, and we could test which soil contained the most organic material by observing the amount of “bubbling” that occurred.

Soil is also home to a startling diversity of life — one teaspoon of soil can hold over a BILLION individual organisms, from bacteria and fungi to small insects and nematodes. Visitors to the Market Science booth got to take a look at microscopic nematodes under the compound microscope and saw earthworms get HUGE under the dissecting microscope (though there was no dissecting involved!).

We hope you enjoyed getting a little dirty with us here at Market Science — remember: you’re never too old to play in the dirt!

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