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07 June 2019

This week saw the launch of the Environment Agency’s new State of the Environment: Soil report which highlights the serious threat to England’s soils and the ecosystem services it provides. Chair Emma Howard Boyd’s speech is here and our reflections on policy and the report are here.

The report was launched at the inaugural meeting of the Devon & Cornwall Soils Alliance. Watch this space for more on the regional group’s plans and activities.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has also expressed concern over the depositing of soil into landfill. The Agency has criticised the fact that soil, which represents 55% of the tonnage of material sent to landfill in 2016, could be cleaned and returned to the land.

A student at De Montfort University has started a new project examining contaminating heavy metals in topsoil and the potential risks to human health these cause.

And a new study from Stanford has found an experimental chemical bath and electrochemical filters could be the key to extracting heavy metals from soils.

FoodShot Global, a prize platform devoted to transforming the world’s food and agriculture industries, has awarded the first round of prizes for its Innovating Soil 3.0 competition. Soil health analytics, regenerative farming metrics and biodiversity over time initiatives have all received awards. More about FoodShot Global and their tech-driven framework here.

The latest in the Highlands Current Roots & Shoots series consider the changing patterns of gardening caused by climate change, and gives advice on how to achieve better drainage via healthy soil.

Global Soil Week took place over from 27-30 May in Kenya and focused on creating an enabling environment for sustainable and resilient agriculture, and how to implement this strategy in to policy. A parallel event discussed the urgency of climate change action and the use of nature-based solutions to the crisis.

The Global Symposium on Soil Erosion also took place recently, with a key takeaway from the event being that issues relating to soil governance prove the greatest challenge to tackling erosion. Their concrete action plan to solve the problem consists of a global map of soil erosion hotspots; a political plan of action; and a global study on the costs and benefits of soil erosion and erosion control.

Finally, there is further evidence to demonstrate that living closely with soils and nature is beneficial to human health. Scientists have discovered a fatty acid contained in soil bacteria that reduces inflammation and promotes resilience to stress.