The Week in Soil

Recent tumultuous political times has left the UK in a state of flux, with uncertainty as the future of government and policies. There are concerns the Agriculture Bill is likely to fall by the wayside, and activists are keen to ensure the next iteration emerges with a stronger, more committed approach towards agroecological practices that protect and enhance our environment – as in this blog from the RSPB.

Fungi news: The US’ National Science Foundation has provided a huge grant to a Californian Researcher that aims to expand understanding of soil fungal diversity across North America. The $700,000 funding will support exploration of numbers and types of fungal species in different ecosystems, and how those might change over time – “changes in fungi may impact the soil itself” and this could impact on carbon storage and climate change.

And this wonderful long read on fungal-plant interactions provides some insight as to how plants and fungi communicate, including videos of underground exchanges.

The world’s meat, fish and dairy industries are under significant threat from climate change – and only 1 in 4 of these producers even measure their emissions, let alone taking steps to reduce them. Suppliers to the largest global retailers are failing on standards around deforestation, antibiotics and other environmental activities, according to the latest Coller Fairr Index.

Our partners Sustain have joined many others in declaring a climate and nature emergency – read their rationale and actions on this, and find out more about food and farming’s contribution to the issues, here.

Converting biomass, such as dead or waste wood, into the soil fertility additive biochar has also been postulated as an effective tool to enhance carbon storage and mitigate climate change. In this interview a Cornell University researcher describes the process, outlining uncertainties and trade-offs and presenting some alternative carbon sequestration methods.

A comprehensive, 15-part podcast series explores how the agricultural sector can move to soil care. Soil Sense covers the collaboration, curiosity and communication across farming which are enabling the move towards sustainable soils via agricultural practices.

With the seasons turning, now is the time to start thinking about preparing your soils for winter. This piece goes into detail about the benefits of ground cover and different plant types used to protect the soil, from a horticultural perspective.

Meanwhile, looking ahead to next spring, the Outdoor Life suggests that all growers need to conduct a soil test before planting up their next veg plot, and tells us how easy this is to achieve.

NB These stories are from a US perspective – does anyone know of any similar schemes available to the layperson in the UK?

For anyone looking to gain knowledge and skills in soil health in England this Autumn, practitioner Niels Corfield is offering a series of workshops across the country: details and bookings here.