The Week in Soil

Chancellor Philip Hammond made various references to carbon and the environment in his Spring Statement this week, with recognition of the economic (and many other) benefits of healthy biodiversity and a commitment to invest in the restoration of the natural environment, including active avoidance of destruction of nature through new buildng and infrastructure projects.

Organic farming should be seen as one piece of the agroecology puzzle – and provides multiple benefits and value beyond its scope of literal land farmed, suggests this special Future of Food & Agriculture report from the Financial Times. 

In a study involving 436 soil samples from 7 land types across Wales, the University of Bangor has found that farmland are the richest in terms of variety and abundance of soil micro-organisms – but that soil invertebrates and other micro-animals fail to follow this trend. 

The Soil Health Institute has released the report from its October 2018 Conference on the Connections Between Soil Health & Human Health. It presents the top 10 priorities for investigating soil health and human health connections, along with summaries and links to each presentation. 

This interview in Successful Farming provides some interesting insight in to the background, thinking and approach of a soil health educator at the University of Minnesota.  

Research as part of the California Department of Food & Agriculture’s Healthy Soils Demonstration Project is taking shape at multiple sites throughout the state.  Listen to the report from the first of a 3-year statewide project evaluating the impact of cover crops to soil health and annual production.  

A new study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports suggest bees might be exposed to pesticides in more ways than we thought, and it could impact their development significantly. The lead researcher explained the significance of the research: “This is an important piece of work because it’s one of the first studies to look at realistic concentrations of pesticides that you would find in the soil as a route of exposure for bees. It’s a very under-explored route, especially for some of the more solitary species that nest in the ground.” 

 This short clip makes suggestions for working with cold, wet soil at the beginning of the growing season – whether poorly draining or recently snow-covered soils. 

And finally, ‘Mole’ has hammered in to Martian soil for the first time. The rod-shaped penetrometer produced 4000 hammer blows in a 4 hour period and is able to push small stones out of the way as it burrows in to the planet’s sub-surface. Scientists are now analysing its first results.