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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Your Doctor Advises You To Use Less Salt - So Does Your Soil

Good soil biodiversity means clean drinking water, balanced greenhouse gases and a reliable source of worldwide medicines and vaccines.

So what can we do at home to keep our local soils healthy? Elizabeth Bach is an ecosystem restoration scientist with The Nature Conservancy, based at the Nachusa Grasslands. She said it can be as simple as watching how much salt you throw down this winter.

"Most people put more salt on than they really need to," Bach said. "So just look at the package and scatter the minimum amount of salt that they recommend. And you'll be surprised, you probably don't need as much salt as you as you think you might. And that's a great way to help protect life in the soil or around you, and keep yourself safe in the winter."

Bach said Illinois is home to some of the most fertile soil in the world and we should do what we can to protect it, no matter what time of year it is.

"Winters are a really important time in our part of the world for soil to rest, so to speak," she said. "And it kind of rebuild some of those nutrient pools that then plants can tap in the spring when things thaw out."

Bach said we can protect soil biodiversity all year round in Illinois by supporting protection and management of natural areas, incorporating green spaces into urban areas, and employing conservation agricultural practices.

"Dead plant materials are the food source for soil microorganisms," she said. "So leaving dead leaves, crop stubble or yard waste on the ground helps feed and protect soil critters through the winter."

Bach said it's an exciting time for soil biodiversity and appreciates when people take an interest in it.

"I just ask people to keep asking questions and paying attention," she said. "People can come out and visit Nachusa Grasslands. This is a great project that is restoring tall grass prairie right in our backyards here in Illinois."

Bach said Nachusa Grasslands is a great way for people to get to know the ecosystem and "see soil in action." She said there are weekly volunteer activities for people who prefer a more hands-on approach.

The grasslands are open from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Dogs are not allowed at the 3,800-acre preserve. The address is 2075 Lowden Road in Franklin Grove, Illinois.