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06 November 2020

A recent study led by the University of Exeter has estimated that if average global temperatures were to increase by 2ºC, the world’s soils would release around 230 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. This is more than four times China’s total emissions in the past 100 years.

A new pilot launched this week in Belgium by the brewing giant AB InBev will allow people to trace where the barley in their beer has come from. The data will be collected on a blockchain-based technology platform which will also allow farmers to improve their soil health, boost yield and improve their farms' water and energy efficiency.

Natural England has launched England’s nature recovery network (NRN). This consists of a new public-private partnership expected to deliver 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected areas in England by 2042. Natural England’s chair has labelled England as the first country to embark on an ‘ecological revolution’ however environmentalists warn that without £1bn from the Treasury the targets won’t be achieved.

Natural Resources Wales is anticipating a failure of its protected rivers to meet their phosphate targets. The Welsh environment regulator is reviewing the phosphate limits of these EU protected rivers. This comes after conservation groups have called for a moratorium on permits for developing poultry farms along the heavily polluted river Wye.

New research conducted at the University of Göttingen, Utrecht and Zurich has warned that while the EU Nitrates Directive can reduce nitrogen in soils, threatened plant species won't survive unless concentrations of phosphate are also reduced. A correct ratio of these macronutrients in the soil is vitally important for these species to survive.

Defra has launched a consultation this week that seeks to get views on its plans to reduce ammonia emissions by regulating the use or sale of solid urea fertilisers in England. Ammonia emissions are harmful to cardiovascular and respiratory health and an excess of nitrogen in soils can damage the growth of plant species in fragile environments. The consultation will close on 26 January 2021.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has opened a consultancy on its revised enforcement guidelines. The proposal would allow them to use variable monetary penalties to punish those breaching the environmental law. The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wale have been faster in adopting such powers, however, these remain unavailable in Northern Ireland. This consultation closes on 15 December.

Researchers at the University of Texas have engineered a soil that can pull water from the air and distribute it to plants. This atmospheric water irrigation system could expand the map of farmable land around the globe as a time of growing droughts.