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06 December 2019

This Week, on 5th December, the annual World Soil Day took place! The theme this year was ‘Stop Soil Erosion.’ The UNCDD celebrated by releasing a new Land Anthem featuring stunning musicians Baaba Maal and Ricky Kej, and the UN FAO produced this overview of soil health, the benefits that soils bring, the worldwide erosion problem and how it can be tackled.

Meanwhile, Allan Lilly from the James Hutton Institute has produced this piece on soil erosion in Scotland and India News produced a fact sheet on soil erosion and how to combat it to mark World Soil Day. The UN Environment Programme has stressed that “soil pollution is one of the main threats to soil health” that “endangers human health and wellbeing” whilst also emphasising the potential of agricultural soils to store vast amounts of atmospheric carbon in a bid to combat climate change, and Food Tank have created a list of 15 organisations that are working to improve soil health to save the planet. The Telegraph have produced this A-Z of soil, and here, the use of nuclear techniques to slow down erosion and achieve zero hunger in countries across the world is described.

You can find tons of other celebrations as well as soil facts, research, resources and events on twitter at #WorldSoilDay.

The Soil Security Programme chose to mark the day by holding the finale event of their 5 year project at the Royal Society, presenting outcomes to enhance understanding of how soils respond, recover and adapt to land use and climate change. Presenters included SSP Coordinator / SSA Science Panel Chair Chris Collins, SSA supporters Dieter Helm, Soil Farmer of the Year 2018 Simon Cowell and Prof Jonathan Leake, and a host of other scientists, practitioners and experts. Again, find more info on twitter at #SSPoutcomes. We were live tweeting from the event: view our summary of key thoughts and messages at @soilsalliance

Lancaster University has released research showing that farmland soil could have a much lower shelf life under current management than previously thought. It revealed the topsoil could be eroded within 138 years, with bedrock hit at approximately 212 years. The study provided the first quantitative estimate of soil lifespans and shows that soil erosion – accelerated by agricultural activities - is clearly happening at a faster rate than soil can be formed.

Colorado University has suggested that recognizing diversity of soil organic matter can help science and agriculture move forward with carbon sequestration. Their new research has established a framework for classifying soil organic matter into two broad categories that are fundamentally different in origin and makeup.

Poor soil health in Ethiopia caused by unsustainable farming practices - partly due to state ownership of all land and insecure tenures meaning farmers are unwilling to invest in their soil - is making it difficult for farmers to grow staple foods.  The Ethiopian Soil Information Service is trying to tackle the problems with soil sampling and mapping.

 Today, Feedback have released Too much of a bad thing: the use and misuse of UK land and soils to grow sugar – an important report highlighting the catastrophic impact growth of sugar beet has on UK soils, contributing around 489,000 tonnes of soil loss per year. They emphasise the fact that adults in the UK consumer twice their recommended allowance of sugar – yet we use the same land area to grow sugar beet as we do to grow veg. 

Channel 4 made history this week with their screening of the first ever Climate & Nature focused election debate, which featured all of the main UK party leaders with the exceptions of the Conservatives and the Brexit Party. C4 chose to mark the resulting empty chairs with melting ice sculptures in the shape of the planet earth. There were a handful of mentions of soil, but not as many as we would have liked. The Guardian produced a roundup and review of the debate. Check back to our site later to see how soil sits within the party manifestos.