The Week in Soil

The University of Alberta are conducting research in to the importance of monitoring invertebrates in determining the health of reclaimed land. This piece explains the thinking behind the research as well as the challenge of monitoring and categorizing populations of insects, arachnids, worms and other microorganisms.

Yorkshire Water are supporting the fantastic ‘Sustainable Landscapes’ initiative to reduce soil loss and improve water quality across Yorkshire, with dozens of farmers growing 400ha of cover crops and reducing metaldehyde use this Autumn. The aim is to identify key factors in achieving healthy soils, with a view to providing practical guidance to farmers next year.

Prominent figures in the UK’s soils and sustainability landscape have joined the debate on payment for public goods, proposed by the government as part of the new Environment and Agriculture policies post-Brexit. John Cherry of Groundswell and Patrick Holden of the Sustainable Food Trust weighed in to the discussion at the recent East of England Farming Conference.

An ancient Irish soil cure has been found to have real medicinal value: a scientist has found the ‘sacred clay’ from a region of Northern Ireland contains several antibacterial species with potential to be developed in to antibiotics. He was inspired by his great-uncle, who believed he could cure jaundice by foraging natural ingredients in the mountains.

Asian jumping worms are causing problems after being accidentally introduced to America in the 19th C. These ‘crazy worms’, ‘Alabama Jumpers’ or ‘snake worms’ may be eroding and leaching the soil in their ravenous consumption of leaf litter near the surface, locking up nutrients in aggregates which plants find difficult to access.

The oldest soil on the planet has been discovered in Greenland. The 3.7bn year-old dirt was exposed under a retreating ice cap and provides the earliest glimpse yet in to landscapes and climates in earth’s history. Excitingly, signs that the ‘paleosol’ may have been inhabited by living organisms indicate that life on earth originated much earlier than previously thought, and in the soil.