The Week in Soil

For those of us not sick of the B-word, visit the Farmers Guardian Brexit info hub for agriculture-relevant progress, plans and future predictions as our new political landscape unfolds, or listen to their ‘Ploughing through Brexit’ podcast for a more light-hearted take on current affairs and their possible impacts on farming

 The GROW Observatory citizen science soil sensing initiative is taking off and on the look out for two more networks in Europe interested in participating in their project. Help collect data from soil sensors that will provide vital information for soil, climate and space science. Apply before the 1 April

The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the US nonprofit organization charged with safeguarding and enhancing soil health, has announced it will launch Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton,” a continuous engagement project to help U.S. cotton farmers increase soil health on their farms. In addition, the project will seek to quantify and expand the productivity, economic, and environmental benefits of soil health systems for those farmers.

New research in the Journal of Applied Ecology has found the presence of dung beetles and soil bacteria on farms could naturally suppress human pathogens such as e.coli. Researchers suggest the maintenance of natural habitats on farms to encourage pollinators and biodiversity. They also found these helpful dung beetles were more likely to be present, and in greater volume, on organic farms – as opposed to conventional.

We always like to include a farmer feature, and in this profile piece Derek Martin describes is transition to regenerative agricultural practices which helped boost profits through improved soil health on his farm in Illinois.

Can soil microbes slow climate change? And can scientists find new way to store carbon below ground whilst simultaneously increasing agricultural yields? One microbiologist has been achieving extraordinary results through enhanced soil health due to an increased fungal-to-bacterial ratio – the next challenge is to see if the results are possible to replicate at scale.

Forest and croplands in 2/3 of river basins across India do not have the potential to cope with extreme climatic events such as drought due to significantly low soil moisture, amongst other factors – and vegetation ecosystems are likely to become more vulnerable in future as a result.

Waste management firm Viridor have urged people to stop using bioplastic bags to collect their garden waste, as even that which claims to be biodegradable and environmentally friendly can contaminate the compost produced. Horsham Councillor Circus is concerned the problem may be spread across the country and will be taking the issue to Michael Gove at Defra.

And the owners of two Cotswold pubs have been recognised for their commitment to sourcing organic ingredients with a Soil Association award. They are also dedicated to further sustainability measures such as reducing waste and recycling, and generating energy from food waste.