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Wed, May 11

Duke time capsule shows soil changes

On the second floor of the Levine Science Research Center, in a tall wooden cabinet that could easily be mistaken for an antique dresser, Duke University professor Dan Richter keeps an unusual collection: nearly 600 jars holding hundreds of pounds of Piedmont soil.

Collected over more than 50 years from the site of a former cotton plantation in rural South Carolina, the jars are part of long-term study of how activities such as logging and farming have changed the soils on which we depend for food, feed, fuel and fiber.

Each jar represents a time capsule of soil conditions as acres of former cotton fields have turned back over to forest.