Skip to main content

12 May 2023

The UK government has announced a £3 million investment aimed at developing new and alternative fertilisers. This announcement was made at the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate Summit in the US. Alternative fertilisers are hoped to be efficient, environmentally beneficial, and cost-effective, which could help improve soil health. 

A report by Farm for Scotland’s Future has claimed that the current system of funding agriculture is unfair, and calls on the Scottish government to deliver an Agriculture Bill that benefits both nature and the climate. The report pointed out that a large amount of funding currently goes to a minority of large landowners without achieving public policy objectives. 

The parliamentary inquiry into soil health has been continuing to investigate the role of soil in agriculture, and the challenges faced by farmers and land managers in balancing soil health with profitability. This week the inquiry heard from farmers and representatives of Sustain, Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) and University of Leeds. 

A local project in Northumberland has received £600,000 to sample trees, shrubs, and soil for carbon storage. The Wansbeck Restoration for Climate Change initiative aims to restore mixed habitats on 144 hectares of farmland around the River Wansbeck catchment. It will involve scientists from Natural England and Northumbria University, with the help of farmers. 

Spain is continuing to face pressures from drought. The Donana wetland, a rich farming area and wildlife haven, is being depleted, with reduced soil moisture seeing farmers extract water, resulting in biodiversity issues. Andalusia's regional government plans to legalise additional irrigation in the area, despite national government pledges to protect the park.

Researchers have compared conventional and innovative farms in Austria, to determine the most effective practices for sequestering carbon. They found that cover cropping and crop diversity were the best methods, but soil texture also played a significant role. The study suggests that carbon farming schemes need to consider environmental factors to maximise the effectiveness of soil health innovations.

New research has used nationally representative topsoil measurements to establish soil health benchmarks for managed and semi-natural environments across Great Britain. These were sorted by habitat, soil type, and mean annual precipitation. The benchmarking framework allows landowners to compare their measured soil health indicators with expected ranges.