URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois found a very old collection of soil samples when they searched a barn that was slated to be torn down.
After organizing and sorting through the collection, they found soil that dates back to 1862, the second year of the Civil War. The collection includes rows and rows of jars with soil samples from all over the state, spanning hundreds of years.
Soil scientist Andrew Margenot said this discovery is very rare and almost unheard of, that most collections only go back 30 to 40 years.
“Think about a large region like the state of Illinois. For those collections, to our knowledge, this is the oldest in the world by probably about 80 years or more,” said Margenot.
While there was one small sample from 1862, the oldest group of samples was from 1904. It came from the country’s oldest experimental agriculture plot, the University of Illinois’ Morrow Plots in Urbana.
The next step for him will be finding the people who own the sampled land, and getting new samples to compare to the older ones. He said seeing how farming has affected the soil over the past century could help farmers in the future.