The Week in Soil

Next week sees the 2nd parliamentary reading of the UK’s new Agriculture Bill: here the Greener UK coalition sets out what the Bill entails and what they think is missing, including a strong regulatory baseline,  targets to drive policy, and commitments to ensure international trade deals don’t undermine domestic standards.

This week, Labour have published their policy on the environment, the Green Transformation. Although broadly positive, we’re disappointed to note a distinct lack of mentions of soil. See what you make of the policy here.

It’s heartening to see young people being encouraged to get involved in learning about and caring for the soil. Young Farmers in Northern Ireland have taken part in the annual soil assessment competition, whilst in the recent Future Farmers of America soil judging event High School students competed to determine the quality and characteristics of soil in four specially dug pits. “It was uplifting to see young people showing deep respect for soil.” Particularly pertinent in Georgia where millions of acres of productive topsoil were degraded during the past 3 centuries due to poor farming practices, including severe erosion creating the huge gullies in in Stewart County (pictured).

In an important research development, Aarhus University has discovered a new and improved rapid method to predict the transport of chemicals through the soil. This will help to quickly establish where pesticides and other harmful substances go when they enter the soil, and how long it takes them to get in to groundwater and drainage systems.

A west London business park has proved the ideal open-air laboratory to test a range of treatments to address the poor soil health that often restricts urban trees' growth and therefore their ability to provide ecosystem services.

 Future Directions International, conducting comprehensive research on medium to long term issues facing Australia, recently focused on the consideration of soil health as vitally important to their readers: in their latest publication they elaborate on the unsustainable nature of current intensive farming practices and why it’s important to move towards regenerative farming.

Astrophysicists at the University of Central Florida have designed and created a red soil like future space colonies might encounter on Mars – and they’re selling it for about $20/kilogram! This article describes further: and you can read the scientific report in the journal Icarus.

 And finally, a couple of long reads for the weekend: Quartz, ‘a guide to the new global economy,  focused around topics & questions of seismic importance to business professionals’ attempts to answer today’s big questions, namely how will we feed 9 billion people by 2050? And how will we grow enough food on a hotter planet? “The answer is to lovingly tend one of the earth’s greatest and oldest resources: our soil.”  

And here the reader is introduced to ecological restoration as a new way to reinhabit the earth, in the hope and belief that humans can support nature to restore faster than it would be able to on its own. With thanks to the Soil Care Network for drawing our attention to this excellent piece.