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23 October 2020

An EU survey finds that only a quarter of species have a good conservation status and only 15% of key habitat types are in good condition. Coastal habitats, dunes, bog, mire and fen are rated the worst. Intensive farming has been blamed as the main reason for such alarming conditions.

On Tuesday evening, Prof Bridget Emmett from the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology and part of the Sustainable Soils Alliance Science Panel, was on BBC Radio explaining why intensive farming is depleting our soil’s organic carbon content and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. She highlights why soil health should be part of the new agricultural policy as the UK leaves the EU in order to meet our climate change commitments (listen to her 45 minutes in). 

NASA made history on Tuesday as it successfully collected a sample of asteroid soil for the first time. The samples are expected to be delivered back to Earth in 2023 and scientists are hoping that this will reveal insights into how the solar system came to be. 

This week the European Council adopted a set of conclusions on the farm to fork strategy. As a result, the EU Commission has started working on a proposal for a certification scheme that would aim to incentivise farmers and foresters to sequester carbon, expected mid-2021. 

The director of planning at the MHCLG has voiced that the UK government was keen to embrace the benefits of biodiversity net gain, which would require developers to ensure habitats are left in a better state than they were pre-development. However, the Wildlife Trust believes the government’s newly published proposals in the Planning For the Future white paper risk serious damage to nature.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and PhosArgo, a leading producer of mineral fertilisers, have introduced a joint Soil Doctors Programme in sustainable agriculture. Part of the programme will be to develop and distribute soil kits to farmers in parts of Asia, South America and Africa so that these farmers can develop skills in sustainable soil management.

Farmers Weekly have published an article exploring how to measure the organic carbon content of soil. They consider how to track changes over time, as this will be a major challenge in the development of new income streams for farmers in the years to come.

A study conducted in Alaska reveals that natural and anthropogenic soil disturbance causes microbial shifts that impacts plant growth. The data collected contributes to a better understanding of how microbial communities can be affected by soil disturbance and climate change.