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17 February 2023

A Greenhouse Gas Inventory has been published for Northern Ireland which highlights agriculture as the main source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Between 1990 and 2020 agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils increased by 1.9% in Northern Ireland. Emissions from soils can arise through carbon released by tillage and from fertilisers spread on to fields.

A new project has been launched in the EU to support the monitoring of soil health across Europe. The BENCHMARKS project has been established to work with both private and public sectors in order to develop coherent monitoring of soils at multiple scales, from farms to whole landscapes and regions. To achieve coherent monitoring of soils the project will look at providing an easy-to-use tool for evaluating soil health and a soil health dashboard for different scales (field to European) and settings (agricultural, forestry, urban).

The Wildlife Trusts have begun a Nextdoor Nature programme with the aim of improving and supporting nature across England. Through a £5 million fund, the Wildlife Trusts organisers are establishing rewilding projects which will improve soil health in local neighbourhoods and green spaces. Nature-based solutions are being used to make the most of green spaces within local communities.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has published its first report on Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) in grasslands globally. It assessed the baseline SOC and found that grasslands have the potential to sequester o.30 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year, if management practices that enhance SOC are put in place. These practices include better livestock grazing management and the use of trees. The report noted that soils are the second largest carbon store after the oceans.

A member of the European Parliament, Sarah Wiener, is seeking to increase the ambition of the EU in reducing agricultural pesticide use. A report that sets out potential reforms of the EU’s Pesticide Framework, authored by Wiener, argues for the EU Commission to reduce pesticide use by 80% by 2030. This follows a recent citizen campaign for a reduction in pesticide use to save bees and farmers. Pesticides can have adverse impacts on soil health and biodiversity.

On a similar note, new research has found that pesticide use has an adverse impact on human senses and health, with regenerative agriculture offering potential alternatives. Exposure to pesticides has been linked to visual and hearing impairments, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as ADHD and Parkinson’s disease. Through regenerative agriculture that focuses on soil health, farmers are seeking to use biological alternatives to pesticides.