The Week in Soil

SSA Director Ellen has contributed a piece to the Riverford online magazine Wicked Leeks on the journey of the SSA so far and the quest to bring soil health to Westminster. Read it here.

A new initiative plans to link soil management and aviation in order to reduce emissions in the sector. According to FAO estimates, agricultural and degraded soils have the potential to sequester more than 60x the aviation emissions of 2018. The proposed Recarbonization of Global Soils Facility aims to support farming practices that boost soil organic carbon to offset emissions from aviation.

From soil to sand: A new study has revealed that if current climate trajectories continue, Spain will suffer drastic desertification caused by extreme temperatures, decreased rainfall and drought. This article explains that, whereas desert is a ecosystem that has matured over 1000s of years and is abundant in biodiversity, land that has suffered desertification is simply degraded and barren.

Human composting or ‘natural organic reduction’ – which transforms a body in to soil in around 4-7 weeks - has come to the fore again in the UK as founder of Passion for the Planet radio Chantal Cooke has advocated for the green burial method. Another option is an Infinity Burial suit, made up of mushrooms and microorganisms that neutralise toxins in the body and feed surrounding soil and plant life.

Natwest Director of Agriculture highlights “soil health is clearly going to become a material issue for the farming industry and one it needs to get its head around to capitalise on.” The bank has partnered with Farmers Guardian to produce this comprehensive piece on supporting soil health in farming. Visit the Natwest Sustainability Hub for further info.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food have produced fertiliser-like pellets from carbon dioxide and waste materials which have been shown to boost crop yields and improve soil water retention. They could help support food growing in times of extreme drought as well as restoring degraded soils and saving water.

In the US, the Soil Health Institute has released its comprehensive strategy for soil health. Further information including a 5 minute introductory video can be found here.

“Animals are the key. They are important for the whole ecosystem, as well as part of the food chain. They must be balanced with the tree system. Pigs provide digestion, and are good for the soil, they disturb the ground and fertilise the land. The natural fertility cycles work better with them.

The ancient art of silvopasture, combining animals with productive trees in a farming system, is the latest method employed in the fight against soil degradation. This farmer elaborates on how the elements of the system combine to improve the soils and wider environment on his land in Portugal.

And villagers in Bangladesh are using an indigenous method to save the soil, protect against flash floods and reduce river erosion – a native technology of river training that utilises locally-grown bamboo posts. “The network of bamboo palisades acts as a natural dredging machine. They obstruct the river current and trap alluvial silt. In this way, the palisades naturally rebuild the banks and increase the amount of fertile croplands.”