The Week in Soil

Yesterday the government announced the introduction of a dedicated Environment Bill, sparking excitement from environmental campaigners. Many stakeholders are calling for the Bill to include legislation around soil health. In this article leading experts from across the green economy offer their take on what should be included in the first UK Environment Act since 1995.

More and more people are recognising the importance of soil health as fundamental to human health and wellbeing: the iNews outlines 6 soil concerns along with possible solutions; a great Observations piece in Scientific American focuses on feeding the world sustainably through a reconceived farming system to reverse the soil degradation that has taken 1/3 of American farmland out of production; and a Tennessean describes soil health as the ‘next frontier in agriculture’, one which the Nature Conservancy is working to improve for the benefit of farmers, the environment and the population at large.

Meanwhile there’s a fantastic example of soil-centric farming in the news this week: Farmers Weekly showcased this Sussex Estate working with a 7-point sustainability plan to combat their soil erosion problem; and there’s a useful spotlight on the recent Groundswell conference which focused largely on soil health as the key to a healthier farm. Read more on their innovation in conservation agriculture approach here

The Northern Irish Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute ask the pertinent question ‘what constitutes a healthy soil?’ in an attempt to tackle the challenge of the inadequate analysis of 98% of soils and 82% considered below optimum fertility, according to 2016’s Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy report.

And finally, fascinating research from the Open University has revealed the profound impact of European settlers on Ecuador’s population and environment. The technique, called palaeoecology, reveals a detailed story of the country’s history after Spanish settlers arrived in the 1500s, based on examination of fungal spores, pollen and charcoal found within soil cores.