The Week in Soil

Just yesterday the Soil Health Institute released a film documenting the history and significance of the soil health movement. Living Soil captures the background and personal experiences of innovative farmers united by their care for the soil. A representative of the US Agriculture Department said “Never have I seen…such a broad quest for soil health knowledge as I’m seeing now.”

This Farmers Weekly piece focuses on the soil-friendly farming practices at the Allerton Project, exploring a variety of practical ways to combat soil erosion including tillage, structure, slopes and crop cover.

New research from the American Society of Agronomy show that over time less phosphorous fertiliser may be necessary on agricultural fields, as historical use increases the effectiveness of subsequent applications: good news given the limited nature of the resource, the associated cost for farmers, and the fact excessive use causes water pollution at a local level.

Researchers at Kansas State University have been studying the processes that support soil health. They found that the soils’ surrounding environment and management practices heavily impact on its carbon stability: with big implications for future carbon sequestration and the creation of carbon ‘sinks’.

And a further study on this theme has concluded that higher soil erosion driven by climate is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe.

Meanwhile, SSA supporter Craig Sams, pioneer of ethical and sustainable business initiatives, has produced this article on the practicalities and benefits of carbon farming for climate mitigation.

Unlike marine ecosystems, plastic pollution in soils is not well understood – yet according to the Global Soil Partnership 1/3 of plastic produced globally ends up in soils. This interview with Professor Alex McBratney, world-renowned soil scientist and Director of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture, gets to grips with current understanding, research and challenges.

And finally, this lovely piece describes how agroforestry is saving soils and boosting livelihoods in Tajikistan: tree planting stabilises soils degraded by decades of over-grazing, provides cover for crops and wildlife, creates a new, additional food source and contributes to carbon sequestration (part of 45 gigatons of carbon stored in these agricultural systems worldwide).