Soils and underground critters

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Book Chapter

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Cantwell, S. (2016). Soils and underground critters. In T. Hundloe, S. Blagrove, & H. Ditton. ( Eds.), Australia’s role in feeding the world (pp. 103-116).Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

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© Professor Tor Hundloe, Sarah Blagrove and Hannah Ditton 2016


9781486305896 (paperback) 9781486305902 (epdf) 9781486305919 (epub)



Eighty years ago, in April 1935, an ominous wall of blowing sand and dust swept across the Great Plains caused by years of overplanting, poorly managed crops and severe drought conditions. During these massive storms, people were forced to crawl on hands and knees in search of shelter, literally unable to see their hands in front of their faces. Cars stalled and stopped in the choking dust. Many thought the end of the world had come. Jane Hardisty (The Farmer’s Exchange, New Paris, Indiana, 24 April 2015) thus described the ‘Dust Bowl’ in Oklahoma and Kansas that started on the newly ploughed American plains and went on to choke much of the country in the east. Soil is essential for the life of all things that grow in the ground and those that consume what grows in the ground. Ground and water are the most obvious building blocks for life on Earth. We walk on the ground. We pick fruits from the trees and shrubs that grow in the ground. After the rain new spurts of life appear from the ground. Of course, more than soil and water are needed for life on Earth; nothing is more essential than the sun and its role in driving the whole system. But to describe the totality of the planet’s life-support system is another book, in fact many books. Soil warrants its own story. Australian soils are a sub-set of the planet’s soils, and are our subject matter.

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