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13 November 2020

The UK’s new Agriculture Bill, the first for half a century, became law on Wednesday. It will allow farmers and land managers in England to be rewarded with public money for ‘public goods’. Beginning in January, farmers will have a 7 year transition period to adapt to this new agricultural system, during which it will be crucial to develop and establish soil best practices.

A new report published by the Soil Association entitled ‘Grow Back Better: A resilient route-map for post-Covid-19 food, farming and land-use’, sets out 10 policy recommendations to tackle climate change, social inequalities, the depletion of our soils and wildlife, and our health. They call for a legally binding target for soil health to be embedded in the Environmental Bill.

Natural England has published a new report in which they warn that they are beyond crisis point due to their budget being cut, including staff cuts and poor wages. They argue that there is a clear gap in the government’s environmental rhetoric and the reality of their conservation watchdog being continuously underfunded.

Our Executive Co-Director Matthew Orman was on N8 AgriFood’s webinar discussing their new policy brief on Ecosystem Markets for a Green Recovery. He discussed how the evidence base for soil is better than we might think and that it is time to make better use of it. The brief points to the research being carried out by a consortium the SSA is part of, studying the potential for a future UK Farm Soil Carbon Code.

On Thursday, the Soil Biodiversity Initiative hosted a webinar with the scientists involved in writing the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation report ‘State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity’. Scientist Zoë Lindo highlighted that soil biodiversity is as important as plant biodiversity in ensuring functioning ecosystems. The report will launch on 4th December, ahead of International World Soil Day.

New research looks into oil-eating worms which could provide valuable assistance in soil remediation. Their experiment was successful and they have found a new way to deliver oil-consuming bacteria into the soil to break down the oil into fatty acids.

A BBC article looks at how we might be losing our favourite foods. In it, they discuss how promoting agroforestry on cocoa farms can protect fragile soils by providing shade and reducing the impacts of droughts. They also provide tips to ensure your chocolate bar hasn't contributed to soil degradation.