The Week in Soil

It’s not just bees – earthworms are just as essential for the future of humanity and our planet, and their numbers are in steep decline: 42% of fields surveyed by farmers were significantly deficient whilst in some they were completely lacking. This is seriously bad news for soil health.

Could wheelie bin worm farms solve the UK’s soil crisis?! The Nottingham social enterprise ‘Deliverpoo’ teaches households how to make use of kitchen waste to create their own vermicompost, even in the smallest of spaces.

Small farms are significantly on the decline, with 1/3 UK farms under 50 hectares being lost between 2005 and 2015 – whilst the number over 100 hectares is on the rise. The Sustainable Food Trust has reported on the challenges facing small scale farming and why the sector is important.

The first study to estimate economic losses from soil erosion by water has revealed that $8bn is lost annually from global GDP, along with an annual reduction of 33.7 million tons of food. The researchers captured losses from structural economic changes as a result of shifts in primary resources like land quality, and found that countries that have both the highest erosion rates as well as a large proportion of agricultural land are especially vulnerable.

“Soil holds records of our planet’s past and the possibilities of its future sustainability.” This rumination on soil’s place in traditions, cultural memories and the future of communities comes from an Irish correspondent and spans “the microscopic to the landscape scale of human and evolutionary history.”

The Soil Association has called for one meat-free school meal per week, in an effort to tackle both the climate and obesity crises.

The statement has sparked a lively debate across the organics community and farmers, and the SA have themselves responded to criticisms, saying its job is “to provide radical and practical solutions so that the right actions are taken. This sometimes means grappling with difficult messages.”

A type of fern has been discovered that can tolerate between 100 and 1000 more times arsenic than any other plant. This incredible property could be useful for remediating tainted soil near mines and other industrial sites, and where seams of heavy metal are contaminating groundwater.

A new herbal mixture has been launched for farmers that wish to improve their soil health. It contains a range of grasses, herbs, legumes, clover and plants such as plantain and chicory that are known to benefits soil’s structure, protein and nutrient content and carbon storage whilst also supporting the health of ruminant animals.

And finally, Loire Valley-based Sauvignon Blanc expert Henri D’Assay explains the significant role the soil type plays in the taste of the wine.