The Week in Soil

With all the current noise around reducing plastic waste through public action and regulation, a major study has found it is not only oceans but also our soils that are affected. After finding microplastics in soils across Switzerland, scientists have called for urgent research in to the impact on food safety.

Meanwhile, a new report from the UN reveals that land degradation is undermining the wellbeing of 2/5 of humanity, raising risks of migration and conflict; whilst the Sustainable Food Trust estimates the economic cost of the loss of soil carbon across the UK to be £3.2bn annually.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Initiatives around the world are returning to soil to improve the health of land, nature, people and planet. In California the Healthy Soils Initiative draws on farming and land management techniques to build organic matter, with a view to sequestering carbon and tackling climate change…

…..whilst an innovation in the form of liquid nanoclay is being used to condition desert soil in the United Arab Emirates, rendering it high-yield agricultural land in just 7 hours and helping to solve the problem of desertification, reducing water use and significantly upping food production…

in Spain a grassroots community is working to restore degraded land in arid surroundings, whilst simultaneously educating people and nurturing their wellbeing with a connection to a thriving, diverse ecosystem…

…and in India a clever circular economy solution sees excess and waste soil that would otherwise end up as a pollutant local water courses being used to produce bricks for construction and maintenance works on their many railways.

Scientists say ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’. The Soil Health Institute has made significant moves to establish a standard set of scientifically-sound soil health indicators which will enable farmers, agricultural policy makers and others to accurately establish the health of soils.

It’s further good news for soil health round the world as the inaugural Global Symposium on Soil Pollution has launched the global ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’ campaign.

And, to end, a little something closer to home: for amateur growers with limited space - consider this initiative at Kew Gardens which enhances the health of soil in small pots and containers. Follow the recipe and have a go yourself!