The Week in Soil

The House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published its report into the government’s farming Command Paper.  It references the objective outlined during the inquiry by Farming Minister George Eustice to support and incentivise a different approach to farm husbandry, in particular soil husbandry.

More encouraging words from Michael Gove during his critique of capitalism at a Policy Exchange event this week where he called for investment in cleaner drinking water for a growing population, oceans free of plastic in which fish can flourish, increased tree cover so carbon dioxide can be absorbed from the atmosphere and wildlife can flourish and soil which has the enriched organic content that will sustain life and growth for generations to come.

Is farming in the UK becoming more or less intensified?  The debate, led by the NFU and Soil Association rages in this week’s Guardian.

Researchers at Dundee University are taking part in a pan-European project in which gardeners and growers are asked to gather data about their soil.  The GROW Observatory is offering free soil sensors and smartphone app which will build a comprehensive picture of the Scotland and Europe's growing practices and help meet the global demand for food.

NASA is publishing data from its first worldwide soil moisture satellite programme on Google Earth, providing farmers across the world with data on the water content of their soil.

And staying in space, the possibility of life on Mars could be one step further today after the discovery of carbon-based compounds called organic molecules by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity.

(A little bit) closer to home, there is growing concern in Nepal about topsoil loss which has been reported as high as 87 tonnes per hectare per year on sloping terraces.  Two-thirds of the country’s total area is geologically fragile meaning soil erosion is exceedingly high.

Meanwhile in Vietnam scientists are experimenting with coating seeds in nitrogen-fixing bacteria which enables the rice plants to extract nitrogen directly from the air, instead of being reliant on artificial fertilizer - over 50% of which would either evaporate or wash away.