The Week in Soil

The Food & Agriculture Organisation, the UN’s food agency, have said that healthy soils are key to tackling hunger and climate change – and that we rely on soils for the future of the planet. The agency has identified 10 threats to soils which can directly impact food security and have called for the world to "make soils a vehicle of prosperity and peace, and show the contribution of soils to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

In good news for the UK, recycling and waste management provider Biffa - in partnership with soil remediation specialists Biogenie - have invested over £3m in the treatment of hazardous soil. Their latest treatment facility has been opened in Merthyr Tydfil and will help reduce the amount of contaminated soil disposed of in landfill.  

Meanwhile, in Africa, the Soil Information Service are trialling a new approach to combat problems with the way scientists communicate their findings to farmers and policymakers. The Service will prioritise the addressing of variability, representation of uncertainty and translation of knowledge in to usable forms to render their research in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania more useful.

For those that still need convincing, this piece in the AG Daily outlines the many benefits to soil health of cover cropping, by fulfilling the four basic principles of soil health, namely less soil disturbance, more plant diversity, living roots in the soil and keeping soil covered.

More on the impact of the recent heatwave: the Earth, essentially, is panting. This according to a new study in Nature which warns that rising temperatures are causing soils to dump more carbon dioxide in the air. As soils respond to a warming climate, more carbon is being converted in to carbon dioxide and the strength of soil as a natural place to store carbon is dwindling.

Wisconsin’s ‘fiercest female farmers’, aka the Soil Sisters, recently hosted their annual gathering aimed at empowering agriculturally-inclined women from around the country. This inspiring feature introduces the Sisters and they dish the dirt on sustainable, organic agriculture and women in farming.

And finally, farmers in North Ayshire have taken a rather novel approach to testing soil health: burying their underpants in a range of soils in the excruciatingly entitled ‘Soil My Undies’ test! The garments will be dug up to assess results at their next group meeting, where they’ll also be discussing more sensible issues such as soil profiling and improving drainage.