19 May 2023
The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, hosted a Farm to Fork Summit on Wednesday to discuss how the government could better support farmers in the face of increased costs and supply issues. He set out actions he would take to support them including protecting them in future trade deals, which could help soil health allowing farmers not to face intense market pressures. In response to the summit, charities and non-government organisations, raised concerns that the government’s plan for action for farmers does not go far enough in supporting them to transition to climate and nature-friendly farming alongside producing food.
Defra has announced a new round for its Landscape Recovery Scheme to support farmers and landowners, create new habitats for wildlife, protect sites of ecological importance, and contribute to reaching net-zero emissions. Projects will focus on landscapes of at least 500 hectares and include woodlands, peatlands, nature reserves, and protected sites. The aim is to achieve environmental benefits on a large scale while supporting sustainable food production.
A National Farmers’ Union (NFU) survey of 500 farmers has found that farmers’ confidence in the future of UK food production is low. There are concerns about inflation and its impacts on farm costs, and uncertainty over government support schemes like the Sustainable Farming Incentive, with their focus on the environment including soil health.
The Wildlife and Countryside Link are urging a ban on soil imports to the UK to prevent non-native invasive species from threatening British biodiversity. Non-native insects, seeds, and microorganisms can be transported via soil. The UK imported over 350,000 tonnes of plants and soils in 2021.
The EU's environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, has warned that the failure for the EU to agree on a flagship law to restore nature in Europe would undermine global commitments. Proposed legislation, which will support improved soil health with targets for restoring wildlife and curbing pesticide use, has faced opposition from lobbying groups as well as some member states.
The Scottish government is considering an annual airborne laser scan, known as lidar, to monitor the health of Scotland's forests, peatland soils, and ecosystems. This 3D imaging technique would provide regular data on nature restoration and generate a detailed map of Scotland each year.
Abaco Group and NIAB, in collaboration with Asda, Tesco, and McCain Foods, are developing a digital app to support farmers and growers in managing soil health and productivity. The Soil Health Scorecard (SHSC), will offer a database to record and analyze soil sample results, providing farmers with actionable advice on improving soil quality.
A new study shows that the use of pesticides and fertilizers on soils in intensive agriculture is a main cause of the declining bird population in Europe. In 40 years, the number of wild birds has decreased by over 25%, with farmland species experiencing a decline of over 50%. Intensive agriculture's impact on invertebrates, a crucial food source for birds, has led to significant population losses.
In an episode of the BBC Costing the Earth series, biologist Gillian Burke has been exploring the science of soil. Burke aimed to raise awareness and concern about the trillions of organisms that inhabit the soil and the potential consequences of neglecting their well-being.
Brodie Neilson highlights on the Sustainable Food Trust blog the potential link between soil degradation and mental health. Soil degradation is rapidly reducing the nutritional value of food and threatening global food production. This has implications for both physical and mental health through the gut microbiome.