Terra Preta

In core we had to read about a soil type that I had never heard about before. It was a soil type that was made from humans, and I’m not talking about scientists mixing things to make a “super soil”, I’m talking about regular farmers living on the earth for about 2000 years ago. It is pretty impressive that humans were smart even 2000 years ago

Terra Preta soil is a black earth-like anthropogenic soil with increased fertility due to high levels of organic matter and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium set in a landscape of infertile soils, like in the tropics. The soil occur in the Brazilian Amazon basin and other regions of South America such as Ecuador and Peru, but also in Western Africa (Benin, Liberia) and in the savannas of South Africa. They were most likely created by pre-Columbian Indians from 500 to 2500 years B.P. and abandoned after the invasion of Europeans. Terra Preta soils are very popular by the local farmers and are used especially to produce cash crops such as papaya and mango, which grow about three times as rapid as on surrounding infertile soils.

This soil is in other words great for the farmers in these tropical areas. The other soils in the surrounding areas are much more infertile than the terra preta. One thing that can be found in the terra preta soil is Charcole, and also pottery sherds. Several groups of people have tried/are trying to recreate the terra preta soil, by using biochar (charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass) as a main ingredient. This soil would be called terra preta nova. It is said that  if biochar become used more and widely used it will not only improve the soils, but also reduce global warming. Agriculture accounts for more than one-eighth of humankind’s production of greenhouse gases. Heavily plowed soil releases carbon dioxide as it mixes the soil and expose the organic matter to the atmosphere. Biochar lead to more carbon sequestration that can store carbon dioxide which is good for the environment. A scientific research showed that charcoal-rich terra preta has 10 or 20 times more carbon than typical tropical soils, and the carbon can be buried much deeper down. This soil could lead to a “Black Revolution” for tropical countries – A solution for global warming, poverty and much more.  

Finding information about this soil was very interesting. The idea of making a terra preta nova sounds so easy! Why don’t we create a new soil that is much more fertile and environmental friendly than any other soils we use for planting?

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2 Responses to Terra Preta

  1. amynoelsmith says:

    Wait, you said the soil is made from humans? Does it mean the soil is made up of dead human bodies? Remember when Courtney asked if the soil changes around a cemetery? Is it like that? Anyway, interesting post?

  2. ccaammii says:

    Oh no. It is made BY humans! sorry for the confusion

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