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16 October 2020

Scientists in the UK are working together to create a ‘Noah’s Ark’ of UK microbes from different soil types in order to sustainably improve the yield of the UK's 6 major food crops. The UK Crop Microbiome Cyrobank (UK-CMCB) will be the first publicly available resource of its kind globally.

This week in the Sustainable Food Trust’s podcast, Patrick Holden is in conversation with farmer and best-selling author, James Rebanks. They discuss Sir David Attenborough’s new documentary and raise their concerns around the theme of rewilding, pressing the need for regenerative agriculture that replicates wild ecosystems and rebuilds soil fertility.

MPs unsurprisingly voted against critical amendments to the Agricultural Bill on Monday evening, including on climate, pesticide exposure, food import standards and on the National Food Strategy. The Bill will now be going back for a second vote in the House of Commons.

Defra is inviting farmers to apply for grants aimed at improving their efficiency as well as benefiting the environment. Farmers can apply for grants between £3,000 and £12,000 to buy innovative material, including equipment to help minimise soil compaction. Applications close on 4th November.

The NFU’s new report ‘Landscape & Access’ is out. They commissioned Rural Focus to draw on the latest research to understand farming’s role in maintaining English and Welsh landscapes. They acknowledge healthy soil’s multifaceted role in storing carbon, ensuring productivity and fertility, flood mitigation and supporting biodiversity.

In Greater Manchester, ecologists and environmentalists have criticised a plan to develop 6,100 homes across 112 hectares of ‘irreplaceable’ ice-age bog habitat. Digging up this peatland contradicts the councils’ ambitions to be ‘carbon neutral’ by 2038 as they will be losing a key carbon sink.

Whilst in Somerset and Kent, planning applications for an urban extension have been stalled as councillors are worried that excess phosphate from sewage will harm the ecology of the Somerset Levels and Moors RAMSAR site. Natural England have advised planning authorities to adopt a nutrient neutral approach.

New research conducted in Australia has found that soil microbes can be used to assess the effectiveness of restoration projects of abandoned mine sites. This offers a much cheaper and less time-consuming way of assessing whether these sites have been improved.