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06 January 2023

Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a pleasant Christmas and are ready for 2023.

At the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday, Defra minister, Mark Spencer, outlined further action the government is taking to support farmers in the cost-of-living crisis. This included introducing a new one-off £1,000 payment for the first 50 hectares farmers put into a Sustainable Farming Incentive agreement. Both the Oxford Farming Conference and Oxford Real Farming Conference are taking place this week. 

New figures obtained by The Guardian show low uptake of the Sustainable Farming Incentive soil standards currently. According to the figures published by The Guardian, only 224 farmers in England were paid under the SFI scheme in 2022. The SFI was opened to applications mid-last year.

The government does not plan to publish a specific Soil Health Action Plan (SHAPe). SHAPE was expected to be introduced between 2022 and 2023. Instead, now an Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) is being released in January. The EIP will include setting out the strategic direction of the government’s action around soil health. This was announced in response to a written question in the House of Lords.

Nestle’s NESCAFE plan is aiming to improve soil health and is supporting farmers to do so in order to provide sustainable coffee. Practices supported under the plan include composting, intercropping where two or more crops are grown alongside each other, and cover crops. Around 1,500 farmers in the Philippines have been introduced to these practices since 2018 by the plan.

New York State has approved the use of human bodies for compost. Under the new approval, human bodies can now be turned into soil after death, instead of cremation or burial. It is viewed as an environmental method for interring a body. The process of undertaking this involves special above-ground facilities.

New research highlights the importance of applying organic matter to crops to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Through not using carbon-rich animal manure, arable crops were shown to hold halve the amount of nitrogen that they would if it was applied. This can help support lower synthetic fertiliser use and greenhouse gas emissions from soils.