The Week in Soil

‘The mind blowing parity of soil and space’ - in the latest of our Soil Soap Box opinion pieces, Simon Parfey of SoilBioLab waxes lyrical about the tiny universes seen in soil through a microscope and calls for a united push for Mission Soil, starting with encouragement of children’s interest in science. Visit our Soap Box page to find out more.

A new Prime Minister has brought with him a host of new Cabinet Ministers, including Theresa Villiers stepping in to Michael Gove’s shoes as SOS for Defra – more on her here. Gove himself has been installed as de facto Deputy PM so hopefully still advocating for the green agenda within government’s inner circle. Meanwhile, the appointment of Claire Perry as COP26 President looks to stand us in good stead as the UK hosts the climate change conference next year. Read more on what the new government could mean for the environment in this Business Green rundown.

Predictions for how farming will fare in the wake of the No Deal or Hard EU Exit that is now looking distinctly more possible have been dire. Julian Baggini writes in the Guardian about disaster for British farmers who will face ‘a fork in the road. One path offers quality, sustainability & animal welfare. The other requires us to sign up to free trade agreements that suit our competitors.’ And on R4’s Farming Today the Food & Drink Federation CE describes the ‘mortal damage’ of ‘lost jobs, lost companies and rising prices.’

The new Committee on Food, Poverty, Health & the Environment is requesting evidence ahead of its inquiry. Topics covered include the causes of food insecurity and accessibility of healthy food, food waste, sustainability within the supply chain and UK self sufficiency.

The government has published responses to its recent Net Gain consultation which requested views on improving the environment and biodiversity in planning, development and new infrastructure. Some interesting ideas and suggestions were raised but disappointingly there was only one reference to soil health.

New findings published this week in Nature reveal the importance of soil pore structure for stimulating soil carbon accumulation, which in turn is impacted on by plant diversity. A more diverse plantlife results in a greater number of pores of the right size for stable carbon storage.

A new study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science has found that plants in soil leached by acid rain take up a significantly larger amount of water, suggesting acid rain has a persistent impact on large-scale forest water cycles, with implications for predicting future water availability.

A soil scientist in New Zealand has warned the soil across farming regions of the country is in gradual decline due to – guess what?! - overuse of fertilisers, overcultivation and compaction.

After revelations of a truly shocking 750% rise over the last decade in time spent by Scotland’s fire service battling wildfires, campers have been warned against lighting wildfires which can set fire to peat soil, damaging unique habitats, conservation efforts and climate change mitigation.

Oxygen depletion and plant death caused by flooding can lead to significant long-term production impacts from a change in the soil biology. This piece in AgDaily considers how cover crops can be used to restore soil health and reduce the potential for future soil erosion.

There is an intrinsic link between farming and public health, the environment and the economy – yet still no provision for human health in the forthcoming Agriculture Bill. The Food Research Council have investigated how farmers consider the health of people in their methods, practices and decision-making and compiled the Voices from the Field report of their conversations.

Oxford Real Farming, the conference that celebrates and educates around agroecology, has issued its call for session ideas and proposals for the 2020 event. Submit by 9 August via this form.