A collection of soil samples, data and information from the past 90 years gives us an insight into past soil conditions and how they have changed over time

Dr Allan Lilly, The James Hutton Institute
December 01, 2020

Soil samples have been collected in Scotland since the 1930s, many of which are now stored in the National Soils Archive at the James Hutton Institute along with information on where and when the soil was sampled, a description of the soil characteristics and analytical data. The soils have been sampled at around 15,000 locations and the Archive holds about 57,000 soil samples. The upkeep of the Archive is funded by the Scottish Government’s Underpinning Capacity programme.

This is a hugely valuable national resource – each sample is a time capsule which gives us an insight into past soil conditions and, by comparing them with samples from today, we can find out how these have changed. Technology has also improved and new analytical techniques have become available allowing us to reanalyse the archived soil using modern methods to provide new and additional information.

This ability to look back and compare with the present helps us to address current issues such as the climate and nature emergencies as well as look at emerging problems such as microplastics and antimicrobial resistance in soils.

Dr Allan Lilly explains more in a YouTube video about Scotland's National Soil Archive. You can also read more on the National Soils Archive webpage.

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