23. Soil Health Indicators and Nitrogen Fixation on Indy Urban Farms: An Investigation of Ecosystem Functionality

Rebecca Lewis Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Sean Berthrong Butler University
Urban agriculture is capable of restoring ecosystem services such as recreation, food production, and clean soil and water. Urban farms can help relieve pressure for areas with limited food access, also known as food desserts. This is especially important to the community of Indianapolis because the city is surrounded by one of the largest food deserts in the US. To help a community, an urban farm must have healthy, nutrient rich soil. Nitrogen is a limiting nutrient for plants when it comes to growth and development. Plants cannot produce nitrogen; they acquire the mineral by external fertilizers or internal N-fixing bacteria. The goal of this project is to test if urban farming practices are increasing the abundance and variety of N-fixing bacteria. Because the farms under investigation utilize symbiotic legume-N-fixing plants, it is hypothesized that there will be more copies and variety seen in the bacteria of soils that have been farmed longer. Analysis of the results of this project focus on DNA-based methods of quantifying and identifying N-fixing bacteria as well as investigate common soil health indicators such as organic matter composition, pH, and quantities of key elements. This project coincides with longstanding, ongoing research conducted at Butler University that focuses on the overall health of urban farms. The soils used were collected from multiple sites around the city; therefore, the data collected can be analyzed individually and in the context of the larger project with the goal of helping farms across Indianapolis improve overall sustainability.
Biology
Poster Presentation

When & Where

Irwin Library 3rd Floor