Skip to main content

10 March 2023

The House of Commons EFRA committee has begun its first public hearings on soil health. On Tuesday the committee heard from academic and environmental non-governmental organisation witnesses. Witnesses included Bridget Emmett, head of soil at the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and part of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA) science panel and Matthew Orman, co-director at the SSA. The committee is considering the current state of UK soils, soil health trends, the current regulation of soils, and the government’s strategy for improving soil health.

A new Soil Science degree has been launched by the Eden Project and Cornwall College. It is the UK’s first and only undergraduate soil science-focused degree. The course aims to generate new soil scientists who are capable of restoring soil function and health. This is increasingly important with growing government commitments to sustainable management of soils as well as new codes of practice for construction, horticulture and agriculture.  

The EU has launched the EU Soil Observatory (EUSO) Dashboard. It has highlighted how over 61.5% of EU soils are not healthy and shows the areas worst affected. Data and research used to produce the dashboard has also been made public, allowing for transparency around the science used. This is part of wider efforts by the EU to improve soil health.

In light of International Women's Day this week, new research has taken a 360 degree perspective of women in soil science. Soil science has been reported as lacking gender parity and equity across the US and the world, with long-standing biases and gender stereotypes that discourage women from undertaking soil science research. This study focused on perspectives within the US and highlighted potential for leadership training, mentoring for change, and participation that co-creates gender parity and equality in soil science.

Delegates are arriving in Dublin ahead of the Global Soil Biodiversity Conference that is taking place from Monday next week. The conference is the third such conference focused on the conservation and sustainable use of soil biodiversity. Scientists, policymakers and educators will be taking part from across the world.

A team from the University of Bath is harnessing soil microorganisms to generate electricity which could help decontaminate soils. Soil microbial fuel cells (SMFCS) have already been used to purify water in Brazil by the university. Through EU funding, the project aims to decontaminate soils from fossil fuels through microorganisms digesting hydrocarbons into less non-harmful components and producing electrons that is used for electricity.

Research in China has examined how Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is accumulated in soils under organic and inorganic fertiliser management practices. It highlighted that SOC accumulation relies on large soil bits (aggregates) while soil microbes are a driving force for the sequestering of SOC, and Organic Matter fertiliser (like manure) can accelerate the combining of organic Carbon to soil.