The Week in Soil

Big news this week as the government has introduced the first UK agricultural Bill since 1947, which can be viewed in full here. Environmental groups have largely welcomed the central theme of the Bill which focuses on replacing the European CAP subsidy system with one that pays farmers for public goods including soil, water and air quality. However, there have been some mixed reactions. A summary of views can be found in Business Green and Farming Today..

 And, as if on cue, Conservation Nation has been released – a fascinating and diverse collection of essays centred around Conservative efforts to protect the natural world, with chapters on threats, habitats, and policies for the UK Government. The SSA’s parliamentary champion, Rebecca Pow MP, has contributed a piece on Growing Places: The Healing Power of Nature.

In a major step forward for our understanding of the impacts of synthetic substances on soils, German scientists have conducted the first investigation into the physical and biological effects of microplastic particles on the soil and its microbes. The research provides the first experimental evidence that microplastics can change the biophysical conditions of soil as well as the functional activity of microbes.

And in more news on plastics, this interesting Green Alliance piece focuses on the invention of the substance as a conservation initiative, initially hailed as an environmental saviour with positive repercussions for elephants, turtles and coral. Now the world is producing 300m tonnes/year, a figure set to triple by 2050, the blog asks us to learn from the mistakes of our past.

More illuminating soil research, as a new study from Dartmouth College has revealed some of the mysteries behind the conditions that cause the huge amounts of carbon stored deep underground to remain hidden or be emitted in to the atmosphere.The answer could be in energy-starved microbes.

In Kenya, farmers are using ‘worm juice’ as a low-cost, organic substitute for synthetic fertilisers to combat the erosion of fertile soils caused by prolonged drought and storm-related flooding: the result is healthy, thriving crops and revived soil.

Climate change news now: the EU’s renewable energy directive suggesting that burning trees for energy will achieve carbon neutrality has caused great alarm: 27 countries have already pledged to increase the use of wood as part of efforts to counter climate change, in a move described as “a catastrophe in the making” that amounts to “sawing off the branch on which humanity sits”.

And finally, this eye-opening gallery allows us to take an up-close look at the organisms found in soils and delves more deeply in to how these creatures work to keep our soils healthy.