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20 January 2023

New report by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) highlights that the government is falling short in meeting its environmental targets. The report notes that the government has begun to develop assessments for soil health, but there remains a major lack of measures to monitor progress made in achieving ‘healthy soils’. OEP did not examine the government’s 25 Year Plan commitment to sustainably manage all soils by 2030, because there is no current definition for sustainable management.  

The European Environment Agency published its indicators and thresholds for monitoring soil health in Europe, this week. Indicators include soil organic carbon loss, soil nutrient loss, and soil pollution. These indicators are expected to support the EU Soil Strategy for 2030. 

A Dutch consortium is considering the connection between soil health and human gut health. The NOW-KIC consortium which involves a number of universities and research institutes will consider how different agricultural practices affect the soil microbiome, and diets will be given to people with gut diseases allow for a comparison of intensive and non-intensively produced vegetable diets.  

A study in Germany has shown that fertilisers made from human faeces and urine are safe for soils and use in agriculture. According to the study these fertilisers could help replace up to 25% of synthetic fertilisers in certain countries. The research found little risk in contamination of soils from pharmaceuticals or pathogens from the fertilisers.  

A comparative study has been undertaken of fifteen different cover crop species to help orchards. The study was undertaken in northern Italy. Sheep’s fescue, a type of grass, was found to have the lowest rate at which water evaporated from it due to it be a short plant, and this was concluded as making it a useful permanent cover crop to be grown alongside orchard trees.  

Expensive in-field soil sampling may not be required for soil carbon calculations and surveys. A new study from Agroecosystem Sustainability Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, found that an advanced agroecosystem model, known as ecosys, provided accurate information of cropland soil carbon through using publicly available data on Soil Organic Carbon concentrations.  

A study shows that soil microbes are threatened by climate change. Hotter climates are reducing the ability for deciduous trees to survive, and this is resulting in less dead leaves falling to the ground and providing material for soil microbes to consume. And this in turn is leading to soil microbes releasing less CO2 which affects their carbon cycle.