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24 June 2022

Scottish farmers will receive basic payments a month earlier this year from the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government announced that annual farm and greening payments will be brought forward to September this year in response to inflationary pressures on farming.  

Targets for halving pesticide-use and restoring 20% of land and sea by 2030 have been set out by the EU Commission. Alongside the targets, Frans Timmerman, the Vice-President of the EU Commission said around €100 billion will be made available to spend on biodiversity. The target of 2030, is hoped to give farmers time to find alternatives to pesticides. 

On Wednesday and Thursday this week,the farming festival, Groundswell, took place. On Thursday at the festival, George Eustice, Secretary of State for Defra announced that the new Sustainable Farming Incentives for 2022 will be opening for applications on June 30th. Other discussions and talks looked at improving soil health and the potential of soil carbon, including talk on the Yeo Valley regenerative dairy project and its move to sequester carbon through soils. The two-day event has become known as the ‘Glastonbury of farming’, focusing on regenerative farming and sharing knowledge around healthy soils. Over 5,000 people, including farmers, environmental NGO staff, and scientists, attended. 

Also on Wednesday during World Rainforest Day, the Rainforest Alliance highlighted the threat of deforestation poses to our food system. Various foods consumed in the UK including coffee and chocolate are dependent on rainforests. Through reduced rainforests, soils nearby face increased risk of erosion and are becoming depleted, reducing cocoa yields needed for chocolate. 

The Down to Earth regenerative farming event was held last week. It took place on a dairy farm in Shropshire, demonstrating and engaging people in regenerative agriculture with over 1,500 people attending, and discussions focused on enhancing soil health and biodiversity. 

Lancashire Wildlife Trust are running a trial on a new farm to produce food on wetter soils to restore peatland. On the 8.5-acre field the Trust has allowed the water table to rise by 10cm to 50cm below the surface whilst growing celery. The aim is to restore the peat soils that previously have been dried out often by farming. 

A science article looks at the potential impact of the war in Ukraine on agricultural soils in Ukraine. Artillery shelling and tanks are likely to have compacted the soft and highly-fertile soils in Ukraine. They could also be leaking toxic minerals into soils, such as copper. The article compares previous wars and their impacts on soils, including the First World War and Vietnam.