sprint soil experiments

Agricultural pesticides are often applied on or close to soils. As a result, pesticide residues are often present in soils to varying extents. This makes it important to build an understanding of how these residues may affect the health of both the soil and the species that live within it. Understanding how pesticides affect the health of soil-dwelling organisms is of great importance to us here at SPRINT and is one of our key areas of research.  

We are interested in learning about how non-target organisms are affected by pesticides, including soil-dwelling solitary bees, earthworms, springtails, and the soil microbiome. Each of these species plays a key role in protecting soil health. For example, earthworms consume dead organic matter, which is then returned to the soil, contributing to its fertility. Previous studies have, however, found that many of these species are negatively affected by the presence of certain pesticides1, 2. 

SPRINT is performing various experiments on species likely to be exposed to residues of pesticides present in soils, including springtails, various insects, and earthworms. We are exposing these organisms to different levels of pesticides in a laboratory setting (see images above), using typical concentrations used in real-life situations. This will allow us to make a clearer distinction between safe and non-safe levels of pesticides in soils. We will monitor the effects of pesticide exposure by monitoring lifecycle stages such as reproduction and survival rates. In earthworms, we are also investigating whether pesticides affect their behaviour.  The findings will help us to assess the safety of agricultural pesticides currently used across Europe. If any of our results raise concerns around the safety of certain pesticides, we will provide advice on what pesticides should be used and in what quantity to ensure they are not causing harm to soil-dwelling species. 

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