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11 December 2020

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation launched its first report on ‘The State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity’ last weekend for World Soil Day. The report examines the potential of soil organisms in ensuring sustainable agri-food systems and mitigating climate change. It reveals that biodiversity below ground is not given the prominence it deserves and needs to be fully considered when planning paths to sustainable development.

‘The Sixth Carbon Budget - The UK’s path to Net Zero’ report by the Climate Change Committee was published on Wednesday. The report highlights the importance of low-carbon farming measures to reduce agricultural emissions which mainly come from livestock and soils. Such measures include planting grass and legumes, incorporating cover crops and using grass lays in rotations, in order to restore soil health and cut agricultural emissions.

A new report by Meat Promotion Wales highlights that although Welsh farmers are amongst the most sustainable ones in the UK, they must do more in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Improving soil health and levels of carbon sequestration on farms could help achieve this. A first draft of a proposed new Welsh Agriculture Bill is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

On Monday, Natural England stated its plans to adopt tougher monitoring proposals to reverse nature’s decline in sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs). Their latest consultation document states that they favour the tougher approach taken in Scotland. Only 39% of England’s SSSIs are in favourable conditions. 

A recent article on the BBC Future Planet explores whether dairy farms can adapt to climate change. Interviews with a range of farmers reveal the issues faced and potential solutions, including the injection of manure into soils as a way to reduce costs and ammonia emissions by diminishing the need for synthetic fertilisers.

A new report published by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation focuses on the potential of soil organic carbon in Africa. It highlights the ability of soils to deliver some of the targets identified in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including those in SDG 1 No Poverty, SDG 2 Zero Hunger and SDG12 Responsible Consumption and Production.

New research explores the ability of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and glomalin‐related soil protein to sequester carbon in artificial soils. These soils are made in urban areas with pre‐existing concrete‐based demolition wastes and purposely introduced crushed dolerite to capture carbon as carbonate minerals and offset greenhouse gas emissions.