The Week in Soil

Lots of news direct from government this week: first up, the 25 Year Environment Plan Indicators Framework was published on Thursday, alongside the progress report setting out advancements made since the original report was published in January this year. SSA were pleased to be included in the report following our close work with Defra supporting the greater inclusion and prominence of soil health in the Plan.

We recognise that there is still much work to be done, however, not least after this report on soil management from the Natural Capital Committee which advises the government to consider soil as a public good eligible for public funding was published this week – following Farming Minister Robert Goodwill’s evasive response to our champion Rebecca Pow MP’s parliamentary question on the subject, as reported here in Farmers Guardian. Rebecca will now seek further clarification with a written question on our behalf.

The Global Symposium on Soil Erosion is currently taking place, sessions are available to livestream and watch again via the FAO website.

The urgency of action towards halting soil erosion and restoring soil health is being reported on globally. This piece in the Japan Times summarises the situation from a scientific perspective along with actions that can be taken to remediate.

Earthworms are a key measure of soil health. Farmers Weekly sets out what can be done by growers to encourage these significant soil creatures, focusing here on one of the heaviest land farms in Britain.

“There are numerous fascinating ways to tackle soil management.” Here, Blue & Green Tomorrow comprehensively outline four sustainable soil practices and the importance of supporting this precious substance: “Because it’s not possible to recover soil loss within a human lifespan, soil is a non-renewable resource to handle with exceptional care and a future-oriented mindset.”

Voice of America has produced a video showcasing the Eden Project/Plymouth University joint research project aiming to use waste to create ‘bespoke recipe soils’ that will restore soil health and increase crop yields around the world.

Saline-alkaline soil and rice production in China: to optimise use of saline soil, increase China’s grain output, and prevent disasters of saltwater intrusion into paddy fields at home and abroad, it is reported that organizations and institutions have strengthened cooperation. China plans to build research centres in the Middle East and Africa, whilst the Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India and Nigeria have expressed strong interest in the work.

“Canine bathroom breaks may have more of an impact on the environment than you might think.” New research from the University of Columbia reveals that dogs relieving themselves in cities can make city soil harder, less absorbent and less diverse. This is a serious problems as “soils keep a city running.”

We’ve reported on it before, but human composting – or natural organic reduction - is now set to be legally enshrined in Washington as the Governor is due to sign the Bill in to law on Tuesday. The process turns a body in to soil within 30 days.

The Environmental Working Group have produced a comprehensive document on the use and effectiveness of cover crops in America’s corn belt - Iowa, Indiana and Illinois – including useful interactive charts and statistical analysis.

Building soil organic matter is only going to get harder, according to this piece from Real Agriculture. An Ottawan soil scientist has studied a long-term national soil data set and found that regardless of soil texture, pH, or crop rotation, there’s one thing that impacts soil carbon more than anything else — temperature.

Soil erosion contributes significantly to destructive flooding in Tanzania, but until this point soil data has been sparse, hindering progress of flood modelling. Now, citizen science has stepped in: the Tanzanian Urban Resilience Program is harnessing local tools and knowledge to conduct soil sampling and create a comprehensive soil map that will inform flood mitigation measures and urban planning.

And finally, in a fight for survival plants tailor their own soil environment via creation of specific microbiotic environments to benefit individual root growth. This may help with the future development of sustainable agriculture.