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Grant from the Inge Lehmann programme to strengthen agriculture in Greenland

In mid-November, Trine Nørgaard, an assistant professor at the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, received DKK 2.8 million from the Inge Lehmann programme under Independent Research Fund Denmark. The money will be used to close-study Aeolian dust, and it may help to improve Greenlandic agriculture.

Trine Nørgaard Photo: Lars Kruse - AU Foto

Aeolian dust consists of fine mineral particles, and it is found in large quantities in Greenland, where it is deposited by the wind. A new research project has just received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark's Inge Lehmann programme, and over the next three years, it will find out more about Aeolian dust and whether it can be useful for agriculture in Greenland.

"In the project, we’ll be examining whether the Aeolian dust could have a beneficial effect on the physical properties of the Greenlandic soil, which is typically very coarse. In other words, we will examine whether, by adding Aeolian dust to the soil, we can improve the structure of the soil, for example, and its ability to retain water," says Trine Nørgaard, an assistant professor at the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University. She goes on:

"The project will also teach us more about where the Aeolian dust originates, and whether the nutrients transported by the dust can help to increase both the quality and the quantity of the grass cultivated as part of Greenlandic sheep breeding."

Another focus of the project is to find out how, and in what quantities, the dust has to be added to the fields, if it does prove to have a beneficial effect on the soil structure and yields. In this way, the project may help agriculture in Greenland, which potentially faces major changes as a result of climate change.

"Climate change means that the area in Greenland suitable for agriculture will grow as the ice retreats northwards. This means that it will make a lot of sense to find some way to make the Greenlandic soil more useful for agricultural purposes," says Trine Nørgaard.

The project is called The Effects of Aeolian Dust on Soil Functions in South Greenland, TADIUS, and it is being conducted in collaboration with the University of Göthingen in Germany.

About The Effects of Aeolian Dust on Soil Functions in South Greenland – TADIUS.

Aeolian dust (mineral particles of clay and silt) transported through the air and deposited on soil can form new fertile soil layers. In South Greenland, large areas are likely to receive massive amounts of Aeolian dust from nearby fluvial deposits.

In TADIUS, a young team of researchers from Aarhus University will work with the University of Göttingen in Germany to examine how much dust is deposited and how it is incorporated into the soil profile and affects soil functions and fertility. The team will also examine how the deposited dust (mineral colloids) is transported down through the soil profile and whether this stabilises the soil and improves its properties.

The project has three main goals:

  1. quantify sources, fluxes, quality and deposition of Aeolian dust on the ground in a large sheep-breeding area in South Greenland (Vatnahverfi).
  2. examine how the dust is incorporated and controls the most important functions of the soil, such as water and oxygen supply for plants and biodiversity.
  3. consolidate the new knowledge into tools to map dust transport and deposition and identify the most productive areas (e.g. for grazing). In the longer term, this will make it possible to establish "best soil management" plans for retaining and incorporating the Aeolian dust in a stable soil structure that can provide healthy and productive pastures and cultivation areas in a changing climate.