As urban agriculture programs expand in Chicago and other cities, a new project aims to unearth data on one of the biggest potential obstacles to city-based farming efforts: soil contamination.
The University of Illinois’ Chicago Safe Soils Initiative is offering free soil lead tests to home gardeners and urban farmers across the Chicago area.
The new effort – led by the university’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in partnership with U. of I. Extension and Chicago-based nonprofit Advocates for Urban Agriculture – is looking to collect thousands of soil samples from backyards, community gardens and larger-scale urban farms over the next two years.
Researchers say the results will allow them to map lead hot spots across the area. The data can then be used to guide decisions about where to start new urban gardens or farms and inform mitigation strategies in areas with contaminated soil.
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