New educational coloring book features tiny superhero of the soil

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She’s a wee bit smaller than your typical superhero.

But the creators of a new soil health-themed coloring book believe “Mighty Mini Microbe’s Tale” will encourage the next generation of real-life hero farmers, conservationists, and scientists to further unlock the secrets in the soil.

The 24-page coloring book is produced by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and is part of its on-going “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” soil health awareness and education campaign. It is illustrated by Cat Bailey, an NRCS public affairs specialist in Portland, Oregon. 

“While the characters are fictional, there’s solid science behind the narrative,” said Ron Nichols, the book’s author and NRCS soil health campaign coordinator. “Many people don’t realize that the elegant symbiosis of life underground enables all life above ground,” he said. “Through this simple story we hope to encourage the next generation of farmers, scientists and consumers to learn more about what we can and should do to enable that subterranean life so we can rebuild and regenerate our soil to sustainably feed our growing population.”

Nichols said the story not only highlights the role of soil microbes in our lives, but also the role of “farmer heroes,” who farm in ways that protect and improve soil microbial habitat.

“Farmers who implement soil health management systems on their farms are the other heroes in the story,” he said. “By using no-till, cover crops and diverse species and rotations, these producers are increasing the health and diversity of soil microbiological communities. In turn, these microbes provide nutrients, protect plants from pests and disease and improve soil aggregation and function – all of which make farming operations more productive, profitable and more resilient to weather extremes.”

As part of its educational campaign, Nichols said, NRCS plans to release a series of animated “Mighty Mini Microbe” educational public service ads later this year, which are designed for children’s television programming. Below is an introduction to the series!

“The more we discover about the wonderful life below ground, the more we realize how much more there is to discover about our living and life-giving soil,” Nichols said. “It’s an exciting frontier in science. Hopefully, this little coloring book will unlock the imaginations of our next generation of soil health explorers.” 

Click here to order and/or download the coloring book and here to view and/or download a poster featuring Mini in 3-D.

Ron Nichols is the public affairs officer for the USDA-NRCS. He can be reached by phone at (336) 370-3395.

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