Silica Stories pp 115-133 | Cite as

Of Fields, Phytoliths, and Sewage

  • Christina De La RochaEmail author
  • Daniel J. Conley


We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but if lawns can hate, yours hates you. You mow it, probably once a week during the growing season, and then tidy up, conscientiously clearing away the clippings, bagging them up for the garbage truck. Do you know what it is you are doing? Blades of grass are stocked full of silica in the form of phytoliths, those minuscule bits of biogenic silica biomineralized by land plants and introduced briefly in the previous chapter. Every time you throw out grass clippings instead of mulching them, you’re exporting silica from your lawn. Though the silica will be slowly replenished by the weathering of the minerals in the soil under the lawn, but that process can’t compete against even the most mowing-averse, non-mulching lawn tender. Unless you’ve been replenishing it, your lawn may be by now silica-deficient. The same goes for many agricultural fields.


Soil Water Land Plant Silicate Mineral Biogenic Silica Before Present 
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Further Reading

  1. Carey JC, Fulweiler RS (2015) Human appropriation of biogenic silicon—the increasing role of agriculture. Func Ecol. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12544
  2. Clymans W, Struyf E, Govers G, Vandevenne F, Conley DJ (2011) Anthropogenic impacts on amorphous silica pools in temperate soils. Biogeosci 8:2281–2293Google Scholar
  3. Goldewijk KK, Beusen A, van Drecht G, de Vos M (2011) The HYDE 3.1 spatially explicit database of human-induced global land-use change over the past 12,000 years. Global Ecol Biogeogr 20:73–86Google Scholar
  4. Guntzer F, Keller C, Meunier J-D (2012) Benefits of plant silicon for crops: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 32, 201–213.Google Scholar
  5. Liang Y, Nikolic M, Bélanger R, Gong H, Song A (2015) Silicon in Agriculture: From Theory to Practice. Springer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  6. Strömberg CAE, Di Stilio VS, Song Z (2016) Functions of phytoliths in vascular plants: an evolutionary perspective. Functional Ecology, 30, 1286–1297.Google Scholar
  7. Tansel B, Surita SC (2014) Oxidation of siloxanes during biogas combustion and nanotoxicity of Si-based particles released to the atmosphere. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology 37, 166–173.Google Scholar
  8. Vandevenne F, Struyf E, Clymans W, Meire P (2012) Agricultural silica harvest: have humans created a new loop in the global silica cycle? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10, 243–248.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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