The Week in Soil

Going back to basics: Agriland put the spotlight on the myriad reasons to protect the soil in Ireland, not least the fact that agriculture accounts for almost 70% of the country’s land cover. Here problems, solutions, financial implications and environmental benefits are elaborated on.

Salt contamination, driven by climate change and the cause of stunted, uneven plant growth, already affects 20% of cultivated land worldwide. This piece outlines the impact increasing soil salination is already having on communities worldwide including lower agricultural yields, rising food prices and shortages, conflict among coastal residents, internal migration and increased vulnerability for subsistence farmers.

BASIS, the independent standards-setting/auditing organisation for the pesticide, fertiliser & allied industries, will launch two new soil health qualifications in Spring 2019, to support farmers in preparing for the government’s new ‘public money for public goods’ agricultural policy: a primary ‘Foundation in Soils’ and more advanced ‘Quality of Soils’ qualification.

And the 4R Plus Coalition, an Iowa-based programme supporting farmers’ efforts to implement precise nutrient and conservation management, has developed 5 educational videos around reducing erosion, building healthier soils and improving water quality. Recognising the unique nature of each farm operation, the videos explore a range of practices relevant to different regions and field types. View the videos here.

Whilst here a current project designed to make significant improvements in soil care of organic production systems is described, including practical activity involved and the benefits that farmers have already seen.

This piece unpicks China’s new soil pollution law which has been hailed as a ‘breakthrough’ following high profile scandals around pollution in the last decade. The law is due to come in to effect on 1 Jan 2019 and adopts a protection-first and polluter-pays approach.

And finally, researchers studying plant-soil feedbacks in temperate grassland have found fungal diversity to be a primary regulator, and suggest the findings advance capacity to predict vegetation feedbacks and dynamics by revealing fundamental links between soil properties, plant resource acquisition strategies and the diversity of fungal guilds in soil.