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13 February 2020

Soil Success: photos from our fundraising dinner and auction held at Yeo Valley last autumn have been featured on the Socials pages of the latest edition of Somerset Life.

Commentators continue to be scathing about environmental protections as lacking in the new Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Bills. In its latest piece the Guardian states “All three bills contain major flaws that undermine the government’s claims [around strengthening environmental protections post-Brexit]”

The Soil Association were amongst those that gave evidence to the Agriculture Bill Committee in parliament yesterday. Watch the full session here and read their full thoughts on the Bill and the amendments they’d like to see here.

An interesting blog on the present and future of soil conservation in Europe was presented on the European Geosciences Union forum, with an emphasis on the importance of recognising and aiming to enhance all elements of soil health, for multiple benefits.

They also present the last opportunity for scientists to join the call for sustainability to be embedded in the heart of the new EU CAP (deadline 11pm CET, 14 February).

When it comes to soil, not all countries are equal. Austrian researchers have created a world map of soil erosion that reveals significant differences at country borders via dramatic satellite imagery. The project suggests that, as well as geography and climate, a country’s socio-economic policies play a significant part in erosion issues.

Following Storm Ciara, flooding and its impacts has been under the spotlight in the news and on social media. As well as farming practices exacerbating problems, George Monbiot highlights the burning of peatland as a primary driver for major flooding incidents and calls on the government to fulfil its pledge to ban the controversial practice, currently used only to support the sport of grouse shooting.

Flooding is one in a long list of problems related to poor peatland practices. In the build up to Peat Free April, gardener Alys Fowler urges an immediate halt to the use of peat in compost, and an upscaling of protection for these “incredible ancient landscapes.”

And Farmers Weekly presents a seven-point plan for arable growers to improve their soil structure, following more waterlogging of these farms over the winter and an exacerbation of flooding events due to climate change. Farmers will need to implement practices to improve soil structure and find ways to drain land more efficiently.

A growing number of research papers has found that PFAS chemicals, unable to break down in the body or environment, are causing widespread contamination of water sources, and that exposure is harmful to human health. Researchers have recently been delving in to how the chemicals migrate from the soil in to the groundwater. Science News has labelled the emergence of these chemicals a “ticking time bomb.”

Finally, “Can Farming Make Space for Nature?” - a wonderfully evocative character portrait in the New Yorker brings to life the vital importance of environmental farming, what this can mean and the difference it can make on a day to day basis. Jake Fiennes: true man of nature and “one of the motive forces behind this new way of looking at the land.” Settle in for an enveloping long read.