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A Common Winter De-Icer, Salt is Hard on Soil

Wintery scene

Wintry weather can mean slippery sidewalks and driveways. The Soil Science Society of America urges people to use salt sparingly, as too much can have long-term effects on soil.

"Soils that contain too much sodium are unable to effectively retain important plant nutrients,” says Mary Tiedeman, a soil microbiology PhD student who recently blogged on the topic.

Research transported her to Florida International University, but Tiedeman is no stranger to snow. She was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa.

“Sodium in soils can also reduce plant-available water, and is even toxic to many plant species,” Tiedeman adds.

Surface soil contaminated by sodium erode far more readily because water cannot easily makes its way into the soil.

What can you do to use less salt on your wintry pavement?

The Soil Science Society of America suggests:

• Be proactive with shoveling

• Use the smallest amount of salt necessary

• Wet deicers before application

• Use kitty litter or sand for traction

Credit Nicholas Leete
Mary Tiedeman checking out some non-wintry soil outside Ames, Iowa.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.