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06 February 2020

Defra introduced their latest Environment Bill this week, and we were disappointed by the overwhelming omission of soils which puts the Bill completely out of step with the Agriculture Bill and 25 Year Environment Plan. We are urging the government to correct this and will be proposing amendments to this effect. Read our full response here. The Soil Association agreed that “there is a gaping hole in the Environment Bill where soil should be.” Their response appeared in Farmers Guardian.

Wrangler is expanding its existing US-based sustainable cotton initiative to Europe in a bid to build resilience and sustainability in the supply chain – focusing on soil health. Their brand Ambassador says “The importance of soil health cannot be overstated” whilst their Sustainability Director advises “We need to unite against major industry challenges, such as loss of valuable topsoil.”

All soil carbon is not created equal – rather, it is amazingly complex. The two distinct forms, particulate organic matter and mineral-associated organic matter, have very different lifetimes – and therefore different implications for food security and climate change. And before implementing practices aimed at carbon sequestration, participants should first assess the carbon storage potential of their soil.

The government’s lead on the National Food Strategy, Sir Henry Dimbleby, has found a focus on agroecology on farms across the country, including a focus on reducing inputs and improving soil fertility. We’re interested to see how soils, the bedrock of healthy food and resilient supply chains, will be included in the forthcoming Strategy. Read the interview with Dimbleby in Riverford’s Wicked Leeks.

Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace, has found a concerning level of microplastics in farm fertiliser which could leave soil “unsuitable for agriculture.” The problem is exacerbated by cuts leading to serious capacity issues in the Environment Agency, the service responsible for regulating landspreading activities.

Organic sales have grown beyond the overall market with a 4.5% increase. Riverford’s Guy Singh-Watson suggests the figure is disappointing, but that organic principles centred round soil health and agroecology are increasingly being adopted by conventional farms which marks the influence of the organic movement. Soil Association CEO Helen Browning suggests the debate needs to move from what we eat to how it is produced.

A new organisation, Regenerative Energy, are taking the Energy-Food-Carbon nexus to its full potential of soil restoration and carbon storage by farming livestock regeneratively alongside solar panels – with positive, replicable results for the land, carbon sequestration, food production, renewable energy and the rural economy.

Research shows that soil and water are gradually recovering from the polluting effects of acid rain, but that this is a long term process. Sulfates are moving from top- to subsoils and there is improved water quality, but soils and streams still exhibit chemical imbalances.

A US-based company, Carbo Culture, believes their addition of biochar to soils can accelerate natural carbon sequestration by 50x, and suggests payment programmes could incentivise farmers to take up the practice.