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04 November 2022

The Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) with its environmental organisation members including the RSPB, have called on Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister to ‘fast track’ nature-friendly farming reforms. WCL is encouraging the government to continue the roll out of the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), with it showing through polling by YouGov that most people support the financial rewarding of farmers for nature-friendly activities and practices. 

A New report by the government provides analysis and statistics on the current relationship between UK agriculture and the climate, including the role of soils. It highlights that agricultural soils are a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but that UK agriculture currently only contributes 1.7% of total UK CO2 emissions. However, UK agriculture contributes 69% of UK total nitrous oxide emissions, mainly through synthetic fertiliser use on soils.

The water pollution campaign group, River Action, warn that the scrapping of farm nature payments would worsen river pollution by 20% in the UK including through soil-runoff. Without the payments provided through ELMS, analysis has shown that incentives for wetland creation and biodiversity and efforts to reduce soil run-off from fields would be reduced and prompt increases in farm-related water pollution of rivers. 

The Sustainable Markets Initiative Agribusiness Task Force has published its Action Plan to scale up regenerative farming. Made up of some if the world’s largest agribusiness companies and organisations, the Task Force calls for common environmental metrics, market-based financial incentives, targeted government policy and an overhaul of food sourcing to make regenerative agriculture a ‘no brainer’ business decision for farmers.

Egypt’s breadbasket in the Nile Delta, where it grows most of its crops, is already being impacted by climate change. Rising sea levels are leading to saltwater contaminating soils reducing their ability to grow vital crops. Huge amount of soil is being brought into the Delta to elevate areas where crops are grown in attempts to avoid increases in salt-filled water. 

Research has taken a look at the different places in the EU that are at risk from soil erosion and the impact of climate change in exacerbating this. 43 million hectares out of 110 million hectares of arable land in the EU is at risk from a single driver of soil erosion. 4.3 million hectares are also vulnerable to climate-related soil erosion. It concludes that there is a need for the EU Green Deal to have a thematic strategy for soil protection against the different drivers of soil erosion. 

A study by the University College London (UCL) found that home composting is not an effective use of biodegradable or compostable packaging. At least 60% of ‘home compostable’ packaging was found to not fully disintegrate in soils. 

The latest blog from the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) discusses a new sOilFauna project that focuses on how humans impact soil macrofauna and how this impacts productivity. Soil macrofauna are organisms that are 1 cm long or more, but smaller than earthworms like slugs, centipedes and beetles. A project workshop in May highlighted gaps in data on soil macrofauna.

A joint NASA-European Space Agency mission to Mars is collecting soil samples and storing them underground to keep them safe before a mission to retrieve them. The Perseverance Mars Rover is travelling across Mars, and has already taken 14 soil and rock samples. These samples will be analysed on earth in order to understand past environmental conditions on Mars.