As a graduate student at Purdue University, Melinda Adams studied biochar terra preta soils, or “dark earth” soils. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin used terra preta to enrich the thin soils of the rainforest.

As part of her research, Melinda got to thinking: how would these soils help restore North America’s tall grass prairie? “Ninety-nine percent of the tall grass prairie is depleted due to agricultural activity. Over time, the nitrogen in the soil has rendered the land infertile, and these fields have been abandoned as a result,” Melinda says. “Why not try to plot restoration sites on these degraded and weathered soils? Once they are revitalized, the tall grass would then add nutrients back into the soil, because they are annuals. There is a lot of research being done on biochar soils and this research is just at the beginning stages,” she says.

Sounds good to me—I’m all for restoring tallgrass prairie. Her research would fit nicely with the Land Institute‘s attempts to create the perfect mix of perennial grains that can be harvested every year but never needs to be plowed.

Source: “Alumni Profile: Melinda Adams (San Carlos Apache Tohono O’odham), Circle of Hope: Educating the Mind and Spirit, Spring 2010

Check out the American Indian College Fund: it provides scholarships to American Indian students wishing to attend tribal colleges. Adams benefited from the College Fund’s help when she attended Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, as an undergraduate.

How Is This Restoration?

Well, it’s not—yet. It’s an idea that could be helpful in enriching degraded soil. But it needs to be tested.

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