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20 November 2020

Soil carbon has been a particularly popular topic this week. The UK Prime Minister announced his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution on Thursday, stating his aim to invest £12bn to ensure that the UK is net-zero by 2050. The Plan mentions the importance of soil health and the ability of healthy soils to retain and capture carbon. However, it remains unclear how the post-Brexit subsidy regime will ensure farm soils capture carbon rather than emit CO2.

 Advisors of the newly elected US president have released the blueprint of a new plan to mitigate climate change, entitled Climate 21 Project. One of the suggestions is to establish and expand programs that encourage farmers and landowners to adopt practices that can help sequester atmospheric carbon. This would involve creating a carbon bank for farmers. 

 On Wednesday, a debate on peat burning took place at Westminster Hall. The RSPB warns that damaged peatlands are producing more carbon emissions than all HGV roads in Britain in their report published that same day. Later that day, the environment minister Lord Zac Goldsmith showed his support for banning peat burning and expressed his concern that this nature-based climate solution had been neglected.   

A PhD student at the University of New England has developed a "social-ecological framework” as a response to the fact that the Australian government's soil carbon policy is failing to consider the social aspects of farmers and farming. This framework hopes to guide soil carbon policy development by engaging farmers in the policy-creation process, to persuade farmers to work on soil carbon sequestration. 

Last month, NASA sent soil up to space in the hope to understand how the microorganisms in soils react in a microgravity environment. After 30 days, it will now be frozen and sent back to Earth where it will be studied by Morgan Irons, a soil scientist at Cornell University, to see whether microgravity changed the sample. 

Researchers at the University of Nevada have quantified carbon changes in Sierra Nevada meadow soils, highlighting that these contain large quantities of carbon being both lost and gained at high rates. The study aims to inform restoration practitioners with information to guide them in making good management decisions. 

A wet farming experiment in Cambridgeshire is testing new crops that will suit a future UK climate including stronger and longer rainfall. Plant species such as sphagnum moss and bulrush will thrive in saturated soil and demonstrate the commercial benefit of rewetting peatlands which will lock carbon into the ground.