How Much Lead Is In Your Garden? Chicago Soil Study Aims To Educate, Empower Urban Growers

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Andrew Margenot speaks to city gardeners about their study.
Emeline Posner / Block Club Chicago

As part of their two-year study, soil researchers will provide quick, low-cost heavy-metal soil testing for home gardeners.

Emeline Posner
Block Club Chicago
Mar 6, 2019

Excerpt:

The study will use two on-site tests to determine the edibility of different crops in plots across the city. The first will examine the relationship between soil lead concentration and the lead concentration in the edible part of the plant, such as a tomato or collard-green leaf.

The other test will examine the effects of different types of mitigation practices — like adding compost, biochar or phosphate to soil — on lead concentration levels. For gardeners who offer up plots for the study, the researchers will not only plant the crops, but will provide regular soil analysis to the gardeners over the two-year period.

By the end of the study, Margenot said, they hope to have learned what plants are safest to grow in soils with higher lead levels, and what mitigation practices are most effective in Chicago soils.

Ultimately, the team will use conclusions from the data to share best growing practices. But while they’re collecting that information, they want to give back to the gardening community they’re working with.

Over the course of the study, they’ll provide free and low-cost soil analyses for gardeners across Chicago. The resulting data will be used to create an open-source, citywide map of lead levels and hotspots.

Read the complete article here.

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