The Week in Soil

More responses to the Agriculture Bill this week, and they’re not all that positive: with Natalie Bennet’s piece for the Green Party in the Ecologist, whilst welcoming the environmental initiatives, stating Gove ‘entirely missed the point’ by failing to consider public health and sustainable food production; whilst Tim Faron for the Lib Dems warns the Bill imperils the rural environment and essentially amounts to a 7 year notice to quit the industry; and an NFU spokesman goes so far as to point out “you can’t feed a nation on ego and ideology”. Food for thought indeed.

The link between soil and climate change continues to receive attention: new research from Michigan State University is ‘the first of its kind to provide critical insight in to the importance of soil in managing risks associated with climate change’. By learning how to scientifically harness, protect and improve soil's health, findings prove that crop yields improve - especially if coupled with adaptive farming practices.

In further science news, a collaborative research project has been launched in Ireland to provide the agricultural sector with high quality data about soil to support sustainable farming and protect the environment. The 5 year, €1m project will analyse 10,000 soil samples to enable farmers to make science-based land management decisions.

Meanwhile, in England, Cranfield University is leading on a £1m research project to overcome a soil health problem affecting rice production in sub-Saharan Africa. Overcoming Iron Toxicity will protect natural ecosystems, increase yields and improve sustainability of production.

This piece lays out the complex and wide-ranging challenges facing agriculture, namely increasing food production to feed a growing population, reducing impact on the natural environment and ensuring inclusive economic and social development. They say the answer to lies in understanding soil at increasingly finer scales – by way of precision agriculture soil sensors.   

And finally, Stories from the Soil, a new multimedia series about soil health, has launched — a collaboration between Tim Hammerich, the host of the Future of Agriculture podcast, and Cool Planet, it will feature American farmers, land stewards, and researchers discussing soil health management practices, innovation, and realities from the ground level. You can listen to the first episode here.