UL's School of Geosciences marked the grand opening Friday of its new Delta Urban Soils Laboratory.
The lab will allow small farmers, gardeners, and others to better understand what's in their soil. In turn, this means healthier plants and crops. Lab director and assistant professor of environmental science Anna Paltseva hopes the lab will be a new movement for the school, which she says is beginning to focus also on climate change and environmental issues.
Students examine soil samples to see what's inside and what the soil needs to improve plant growth. The lab can also detect anything that may keep plants from growing. Right now, the lab offers basic tests, enough for the average farmer to know what's in their soil, with results available in just a few days to weeks. Knowing the properties of soil can make a difference in gardening, but can also be important for parents to learn what their children could be exposed to while they play.
Paltseva says she hopes to soon acquire more equipment and staff in order to offer a greater variety of tests to more people. So far, the lab's received samples from California, Washington, New York, and New Jersey. They've also worked with companies to test fertilizer before it can be certified and sold commercially. UL's facilities like the solar farm and composting facilities have played a great role in the lab's research.
While students are learning in the lab, they're also being introduced to research techniques, practical lab/field experience, and job and research opportunities.
"The idea for this lab and research program in general is to bring science to people, introduce people to the idea of urban agriculture, importance of soil health, and give opportunities for students to learn those techniques and potentially to find more jobs," Paltseva explained.
If you're interested, Paltseva invites residents of Lafayette and beyond to send in soil samples. From there, the lab can not only provide you information and recommendations, but can also introduce new research topics and opportunities. Paltseva says she'd also like to 'map Louisiana' to see how the state looks based on its different soil properties.
More information on the lab can be found at geology.louisiana.edu/soils-lab, or you can send questions to email@example.com.
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