The Week in Soil

Yesterday’s landmark IPCC report on Climate Change & Land reveals the climate crisis is reducing land’s ability to sustain humanity and highlights the urgent need for immediate action. It also outlines how land can be a key part of the solution to catastrophic environmental and ecosystem breakdown. Allowing soils and forests to regenerate and store carbon, alongside reducing intensive agriculture and food waste, will not only support climate mitigation but also improve human health, reduce poverty and tackle wildlife and biodiversity loss. More here.

Following the report, the lack of political action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions via improved land management in Finland has been lamented. “We haven’t adopted a single measure to reduce emissions from soil. We do have research projects, but nothing has turned into politics” said Markus Ollikainen, chairperson of the Finnish Climate Panel.

Meanwhile, new research has found the potential of the Amazon to act as carbon sink could be limited due to a lack of nutrients – namely phosphorous – in the soil which hampers the rainforest’s ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Soil’s potential to store carbon is increasingly becoming an object of research and investment. The aviation industry is now turning its attention to land, and the FAO has produced this report on the Recarbonisation of Global Soils as a dynamic response to offset global emissions.

24 Hours in Farming kicked off yesterday and came to an end at 5am this morning. The annual event, supported by Farmers Guardian and Morrisons, aims to provide insight and celebrate the daily work and lives of farmers and growers across the UK with a surge of social media activity over 24 hours. Follow the links above or #Farm24 on twitter to catch up.

An interesting paper in the latest edition of Environmental Science & Policy attempts to map the differing societal expectations around the use of agricultural soils across European countries.

New research has identified the importance of cover cropping for soil health and highlights the need to develop innovative strategies to support farmers to use the practice. The long term systems study conducted in America tested for soil enzymes as early indicators of improved soil health.

And another US study has revealed that American agriculture is 48x more toxic than it was 25 years ago, due largely to widespread use of neonicotinoid insecticides which can persist in the environment for years after original application. The study provides a fascinating time-lapse of impact.

What could be our next generation of antibiotics have been discovered in a fluorescent strain of soil bacteria which creates a bio-film on the roots of plants; more on the research methods used here.

A new tool, presented in Nature Communications, has proven effective in identifying active soil microbes and can help researchers narrow in on soil microbiomes and uncover how they might affect soil processes.

South Dakota’s Soil Health Bucket is an innovative new method used in soil education which encourages students to get their hands dirty with practical activities around soil health and practices. More on the scheme here.

And finally, ancient soils reveal a window in to the past: a researcher explores soils in Northern Kenya to better understand the environmental context of human evolution. Preserved ancient soils called paleosols contain information about atmospheric composition, which sheds light on what the Earth's environment was like in the past.