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03 May 2019

“How ridiculous is it that a farmer produces food he can’t afford. I will buy cheap food because that is what we can afford to buy yet I know it should be more expensive…..a stupid, vicious circle.” Food, Farming & Countryside Commission film highlights rural poverty, with one farmer discussing considering use of a food bank, as the House of Lords prepares to release a new report on the rural economy.

The Climate Change Committee released a new report yesterday urging immediate government action with strong policy commitments necessary for the UK to meet its net zero target by 2050. It highlighted the opportunities for carbon sequestration in soil and changes in land management as a significant contributor to the UK’s mitigation efforts.

Read their briefing here and full report here.

Sustain have responded to the new targets around diets and land use in the report: read their statement here. The Soil Association have outlined the changes that the report states need to be made to UK agriculture to reduce emissions from the sector. Soil experts Cranfield University have also released a statement.

Meanwhile the IPBES will launch a report next week warning that climate change is being fuelled by soil damage and will not be halted if we continue to degrade our soils. The BBC elaborates on detail of the report here and Evening Standard has also reported on the subject.

And Greener Alliance have produced this useful blog summarising the key ways the government should improve and strengthen the Environment Bill following the Environmental Audit Committee’s damning report of policy as it stands - namely: ensure independence; enable legal enforcement; address climate change; and include all 4 UK nations

Radio 4’s PM programme also featured the link between soil and climate change this week, focusing on the opportunities for carbon sequestration via conservation farming, with an interview with the head of the Nature Friendly Farming Network. Listen from 5.20pm.

This fascinating in-depth piece describes the dire soil situation in China and efforts to restore the country’s land to fertility and productive use, including the Dynamic Balance of Total Farmland Area policy, similar to the ‘net gain’ concept; focus on compacted urban soils; agricultural extensions meetings for conservation agriculture education; and reconnecting farms and cities.

A Scottish livestock farmer has revealed dramatic results from the first of a five year experimental soil-testing programme, including improved soil health, a cut in phosphate use and huge savings on his grassland fertiliser bill. The NFU Scotland Vice President said the country has an excellent record on soils, especially in storing carbon as an important element in tackling climate change, but could still do even more to boost soil health.

This episode of France 24’s Down to Earth series discusses the move to conservation agriculture to restore farmland soils in France, currently only practiced by 5% of the country’s farming population. The series focuses on innovative environmental, health and technological solutions for a sustainable world.

A record 26 teams from around America competed this year in the National Collegiate Soils Contest, a soil judging competition that has taken place every year since 1961. As they travel across the country to take part, the contest also allows students to interact with soil types they do not normally encounter in their local regions.

Meanwhile, closer to home, a farm in North Wales will this year host a soil and biodiversity conference focusing on the delivery of public goods and how healthy soils can fit in to future government agriculture schemes and policy. The conference takes place on 9 May and is led by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Social science has a significant role to play in supporting the effective impact, engagement and knowledge dissemination: from academia to practical, accessible use. How do we share findings and reach audiences?  This paper analyses the SoilCare project’s twitter account in terms of effective knowledge exchange around sustainable soil management.

And finally, beavers have been released in Yorkshire as part of the Slowing the Flow natural flood management initiative. Beavers have been shown to restore complex wetland habitats, increase biodiversity, provide habitat for declining species and slow the flow of water downstream.