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02 July 2020

Agriculture Bill news: farmer and Sustainable Food Trust policy director Richard Young explains why he has fallen out of love with the new legislation and his concerns for the future of sustainable domestic food production.

The latest Committee on Climate Change UK progress report highlights land use change & peatland restoration as immediate priority areas, emphasising that action on climate change such as better land management, tree planting & improved green spaces will have multiple benefits for nature, public health and the economy.

Rothamsted researchers have started forming what they envisage will become a ‘universal theory of soil.’ Their study, based on a unique 50 year field experiment, has revealed the relationship between carbon, microbial activity and soil function – with significant consequences for choice of inputs used in farming and land management methodologies.

A team exploring soil life in the Amazon rainforest have described fungi as ‘the next frontier of biodiversity science’ – and stress below-ground diversity must be put on the agenda for future conservation action plans. Researchers found 1800 organisms in 1 teaspoon of Amazonian soil, 400 of which are fungi – some of which help poor quality soil absorb nutrients.  

One of the organisers of Carbon Calling conference has launched a Carbon Dating service connecting livestock and arable farmers for the purpose of building carbon levels in arable soils. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check the website for more information.

University College Dublin researchers have found that microplastics are entering the soil food web. In studying microscopic soil creatures feeding on algae growing on polystyrene, they found the creatures had ingested microplastics – theorising that, due to their quantity, these creatures could redistribute the fragments throughout the entire length and depth of soils globally.

Revisit this paper on the impacts of terrestrial microplastics on plant growth from 2019.

Meanwhile, two peer-reviewed studies published this week have found plastics in apples, carrots and lettuce. Microplastic particles from soil and water enter the plant tissue via its roots and are then transported to the edible plant parts. A key summit in April 2021 will explore further the relationship between plastic contamination and health.

Farmers Guardian provide insight as to how a ‘soil first’ approach including attentive testing, monitoring and targeting has delivered strong results for one Welsh farmer. He says “soil is a farm’s biggest asset….we just keep on top of the soil, making small changes. Our pH and nutrient levels have improved directly through our monitoring strategy.”

Finally, the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS) has rolled out a five-year strategic action plan to tackle soil degradation and promote sustainable soil management to enhance food and nutrition security in the country. The plan is due to be implemented throughout 2020-2025.