For years, larch monocultures in the Sauerland region of western Germany have been rendering woodland floors infertile. A severe storm in January 2007 took a final toll on the trees growing there. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology are now trying to restore the soil with terra preta, a black manmade soil from the Amazon Basin.
It dates back thousands of years, and is made from an accumulation of food remains, pottery shards and feces. Terra preta has already begun to work its magic in the Sauerland region. If it continues to prove its worth, it could be used to help improve agriculture in poorer countries.