The Week in Soil

After delays to the Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Bills, environmentalists might be right to be feeling frustrated with stalled progress due to the UK’s exit of the EU. This Three Year Expert’s Review offers insight as to the impact Brexit and the different potential deals on the table will have on our environmental policy and governance, and reflects on predictions made in the first of these papers produced in 2016.

In heartening sector news, Syngenta have recognised an 'undeniable demand for a shift in our industry' to more environmentally sustainable farming methods & are aiming to set targets for nature-led innovation, reducing residues to improve soil health and green investment following feedback from farmers.

The campaigning group Feedback have labelled sugar beet a 'poster crop' for soil degradation, as it cause 300,000 tonnes topsoil loss per harvest. Connecting the dots between farming, soils, public health and the Treasury, they stress that achieving the government's dietary target would require a 2/3 sugar reduction on average, and that obesity-related illness costs the NHS around £6.1bn (2014-15 figures). With a crop that seems so detrimental to so many systems, they ask, why are we still growing it?

The European Journal of Soil Science have published an open access virtual issue focusing on studies relating to earthworms, available here.

A new study has shown that pesticides & antibiotics are polluting streams across Europe. Scientists have said the contamination is dangerous for wildlife and may increase the development of drug-resistant microbes, so resulting in a threat to human health as well. More than 100 pesticides and 21 drugs were detected in the 29 waterways analysed in 10 European nations, including the UK and the call for regenerative farming is increasing: “Farmers don’t want to pollute rivers & water companies don’t want to have to remove pollution, so we have to reduce reliance on pesticides through more sustainable agriculture."

Researchers have found that a type of bacteria commonly found in soil around the globe naturally oxidises methane. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests the finding could help to tackle global warming via the natural method of removing methane from the air. The discovery could also lead to changes in farming practices to prevent destruction of the bacteria.

Are you farming vertically? Vertical farming refers to the ability for water to move up from the water table and down through the soil profile to reach plant roots. Getting oxygen into the soil and promoting deep root systems are also key aspects of vertical farming. This interview with RealAgriculture explains more and offers tips on how growers can create vertical environments.

The Soil Association has formally partnered with French organic certifiers Ecocert to help drive organic farming practises worldwide. The partnership will widen the range of growers around the world who can use the Soil Association label, while British growers will be able to enjoy access to Ecocert’s certification accreditation for exports to countries such as USA, Japan, and Korea.