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4 June 2020

Earlier this year CSaP, the Centre for Science & Policy, and Cambridge Zero hosted a workshop attended by the SSA that brought together together policymakers, experts and stakeholders to discuss the future of UK land management for the benefit of soil health. The case was made for ‘spatially explicit’ land/soil management strategies, matching land parcels to soil and land objectives. Read the full workshop report here.

The myth of the 60 remaining harvests has once again reared its head, this time on Radio 4’s More or Less. James Wong explains it is impossible to generalise fertility across all soil types, and equally impossible to gauge the length of a soil’s remaining lifespan. Despite catching public attention, the statistic is not based on any scientific evidence, but has been extrapolated from a study of the soil health of one specific UK region. Look out for our thoughts on the subject in the summer issue of The Land Magazine.

A team at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland has advanced understanding of plant growth by capturing the corkscrew motion of roots growing through soil via a new imaging technology, transparent soil. The findings have implications for crop breeding and understanding of soil mechanics.

Research to support improved soil health is taking place at New Mexico University. Studies include soil health assessment and land management to benefit soil health; and the links between soil health and sustainable crop production, with soil organic matter at the centre.

A renowned agronomist is leading a trial of rice growing on a saline-alkali land in China, with a new strain they think has a greater tolerance to the soil conditions. China has about 100m hectares of saline-alkali soil, of which around 1/5 could be ameliorated to arable soil.

Scientists have found that antibiotic-destroying genes are widespread in soil bacteria, presenting a threat to one of the most widely-used classes of antibiotics. However, they have also developed a chemical shield which protects the antibiotic from destruction, thus restoring their lethality.

It has been reported that food demand in lockdown has created a ‘pivotal moment’ for organics. There has been a surge in demand for local organic produce and, together with increased motivation to ‘buy British’ and climate change pressures provoking interest in sustainability, this appears to be a particularly positive time for regenerative, nature-friendly farming.