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22 July 2022

The government has published the latest 25 Year Environment Plan annual progress report. It highlights how the government is supporting soil health through the roll-out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), and tracking progress through the development of a healthy soil indicator and a soil structure monitoring methodology. 

A new report by the Rural Investment for a Sustainable Europe (RISE) Foundation shows that costs of soil degradation in Europe are estimated to be 50 billion euros annually. It is further noted that 60-70% of European soils are not in a healthy state and argues that public policies to tackle poor soil health have not been implemented effectively, while private schemes are successful but often localised and marginal. It urges for an enabling framework and incentives that align with sustainable soil management. 

The EU Commission reports that the drought in Europe is worsening, in a new report, while a lack of rainfall in Europe has already caused shortages in soil water. The shortage of water in soils is making it harder for plants to extract water and grow. The EU Commission’s report highlights that heat waves in May and July have reduced rainfall which is drying soils and causing stress on crops, ultimately resulting in reduced crop yields. 

CPRE, the Countryside Charity, has released a report on building on our food security and how changes to land use and planning are needed to support agricultural soils. The report raises concerns that the use and loss of agricultural land due to building developments is not being monitored by the government. It urges the government to monitor this in order to help protect soils.

An article in the ENDS report has highlighted the growing issue of microplastic contamination of soils. It notes recent concerns that sewage sludge containing microplastics have ended up in soils, with farmers using it as part of a cyclical economy to fertilise land. 

New fungi species have been discovered in Scotland by scientists. They analysed 219 soil samples from the Cairngorms National Park and found hidden in some dirt there was a unique fungus from the Squamanita genus.

Scientists have managed to design roots that can penetrate through hard soil. This design was practised on cereal roots and expected to help plants gain resilience in the face of climate change, allowing their roots to go deeper into soil by breaking through hard soils.