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06 August 2020

The Defra Environmental Land Management policy discussion closed on 31 July. We responded on behalf of soil health - read our submission here.

The Agriculture Bill has completed the House of Lords Committee stage and will next go back to the Commons for MPs to debate Lords’ amendments. Read full transcripts of the debates so far here. More information can be found in our partner Sustain’s latest farming & food policy roundup.

Urgent action is needed for the UK to reduce its global land use impact. In new report Riskier Business the RSPB and WWF reveal the UK’s heavy dependence on products and raw materials from abroad to meet demand for food and other items, and the consequent significant climate, environment and human rights impacts of UK commodity production overseas - including soil degradation and threats to biodiversity.

Researchers led by the James Hutton Institute are undertaking a £1m project to develop a system to understand and monitor changes to soil carbon from agricultural systems. The aim is to better assess the amount of carbon captured in soils and their impact on climate change mitigation; and, ultimately, to make the system available to farmers and land managers via mobile app.

New analysis provides evidence that the destruction of wild places and degradation of ecosystems directly increases the risk of disease outbreaks: “The greatest zoonotic threats arise where natural areas have been converted to croplands, pastures and urban areas.” It’s the latest in a list of covid-inspired reports confirming the connection between nature destruction and future threat of pandemics.

A social enterprise in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan is helping to find sustainable uses for fallow land and halt soil erosion, a common problem for small-scale farmers there as a result of deforestation, mining, overgrazing, higher temperatures and infrastructure. By planting hazelnut trees and monitoring soil health, the organisation is stabilising slopes and protecting watersheds.

The annual Farmers Guardian/Morrisons Farm24 event took place yesterday: the biggest online showcase of British farming which sees food producers and land managers sharing their work and life experiences over 24 hours on twitter. Search #Farm24 for great pictures, information and insights.

Finally, people around the world, including around 100 in the UK, have received mysterious seed parcels through the post. Authorities globally are warning recipients not to plant the seeds due to biosecurity concerns as their origin is investigated, whilst those that have already done so have reported no results so far.