The Week in Soil

Graeme Willis of the Campaign for Rural England put forward a strong case for nature-friendly farming techniques to support the vital, life-building asset that is soil in this week’s Guardian, asserting ‘its importance should not be understated’

A new report from Padua University suggests the recent surge in popularity for Prosecco is causing large-scale soil erosion, and consequential leaching of pesticides and fertilisers, in Italy. For every bottle that is produced, they claim, 4.4kgs of soil is lost – amounting to 400,000 tonnes of soil each year. They suggest nature-based mitigation measures to solve the problem.

The company that makes Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs and Cocoa Puffs  is setting its sights on regenerative agriculture. General Mills is asking farmers to diversify crop rotations, consider minimal tillage and plant cover crops, saying ‘we are on a journey to bring soil back to life’.

Soil degradations is occurring on 147m ha of land in India, and the causes are substantially human-induced says a Governor addressing a national conference on soil & water conservation and climate change. He praises conservation technologies for the major role they’ve played in increasing agricultural productivity and development in the country.

This interesting piece from the Conversation discusses drought: how to define and measure it, and the role that satellites can play in mitigating the problem, including predicting when the next drought will take place so farmers can prepare and work to protect soil.

Scientists have predicted that certain areas of the US will experience higher levels of air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain and respiratory problems due to climate-induced changes to forest soils, as the soil’s ability to remove or emit gases is hugely influenced by the trees.

And finally, a long-standing puzzle for scientists: how and why soil water density differs from free water density is explored in new research which explains that quantifying the amount of water contained in soil pores is vitally important for understanding many geophysical processes – and sheds some light on this previously poorly understood property.