The Week in Soil

A social enterprise is using Paris’ organic waste (30% of all waste produced in Paris) which would normally go into landfill and turning it into compost which they then sell to farmers. Cyclists pick up the waste from restaurants and hotels and transport it to one of the six composters across France. The compost is then, ultimately, sold to farmers.

At the University of Connecticut, researchers have designed and tested a new soil moisture sensor. They believe that the sensor will be able to reduce water consumption by 35%. The current sensors used are said to have problems with low resolution, however, this new sensor has high spatio-temporal resolution data, which is required for hydrology model development. Additionally, this sensor only costs $2, in comparison to sensors currently on the market which can cost up to $1000.

Australia’s mangroves are a great sink of carbon, storing 20m tonnes of carbon annually. However, degradation of the mangroves from coastal developments, dredging and climate change are causing the mangroves to emit up to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

A new study, conducted by the Michigan State University, states that by increasing the biodiversity of soils, i.e. by growing a greater variety of plants or crops increases the volume of carbon stored in the soils. In addition to this, there are other benefits including healthier soils and plants and wildlife habitats. Plant biodiversity causes a healthier soil pore structure, which promotes soil aggregation which store carbon.

Another study, conducted by the RUDN University and Huazhong Agricultural University have dfound that by adding certain carbon compounds into the soil, the phosphorus availability increases in paddy fields. This may reduce the dependency on phosphorus fertilisers in paddy fields.

P-sense is a new test which enables farmers to test for phosphorus levels in the field, as opposed to sending off samples to a laboratory, thereby decreasing time and costs. This may then decrease in excess phosphorus added to fields and run-off to water bodies.

This farmer, based in Norfolk, is changing up his usual crops by planting miscanthus, which he will then sell to his local power station. Research suggests that growing miscanthus is able to add soil organic matter, improve earthworm biodiversity and soil stability.

A new report by the Soil Association has found that by buying an organic cotton T-shirt instead of a conventional cotton T-shirt, you can save up to 2,457 litres of water. Additionally, conventional cotton uses nearly a quarter of all pesticides which are produced.

Dr Debbie McConnell, from Agri-Food and Biosciences has stated that by maintaining the optimal pH of grassland soils, more carbon is able to be sequestered in the soils. Grassland often tends to be too acidic, so liming is often used to decrease the pH of the soils.

Finally, at the Conservative Party Conference, held this week in Manchester. The National Farming Union held a debate where Brexit and animal welfare were the hot topics.