The Week in Soil

Heartening news to begin, as the sales of organic produce continue to rise for the 7th year in a row, now racking up a record value of £2.2bn/year.

In research news, a recent study reveals that the relationship between erosion and biodiversity is reciprocal. Soil organisms can both reduce soil loss, by improving porosity, and increase it, by diminishing soil stability as a result of their mixing activities. Simultaneously, soil runoff has ecological impacts on belowground communities.

A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, has found that low-tech methods of improving soil quality on farms could pull significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus slowing climate change.

And the future is here! Researchers have built an AI-powered soil testing kit for small farmers. The paper testing strip combines with a mobile app and uses machine vision to measure the amounts of chemicals in water and soil samples

Meanwhile, a major grant from the Natural Science Foundation will allow researchers to determine how interactions between plants and soil microbes will influence plant growth and health in a warming climate.

Defra has launched a review to “examine the continuing need for AHDB and the statutory levy” and has opened a 10 week window for farmers, growers and processors to share their views so they can establish the long term future of the board.

.....but farmers are disappointed with the lack of help they have received from the government after difficulties resulting from the recent heatwave, despite reassuring words from Environment Secretary Michael Gove. They say they need more meaningful assistance to deal with the long term impacts of the driest early summer in nearly 6 decades.

Recently a team from the UK attended the 21st World Congress of Soil Science, the largest gathering of soil scientists in the world and one that takes place only once every 4 years – this time in Rio de Janeiro. Find out more about the trip here.

And finally, for those with green fingers, the Telegraph have produced a handy guide to improving your soil over the dormant winter period to ensure high health and productivity come spring.