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26 April 2023

Defra has set out measures in response to the Rock Review on Tenant Farming in England, including improved support for tenant farmers to access the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS). Measures include reviewing the taxation of ELMS and simplifying schemes available. The Rock Review was published last year with various recommendations for the government.

The Scottish government has requested that the UK government coordinates better action on food security with devolved governments. Mariri Gougeon, Rural Affairs minister, wrote to the Prime Minister, stating that its crucial for the government, devolved administrations, and industry to work together to adequately support the food and farming sector, with potential impacts for future agri-environmental schemes and soil.

Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera), is being investigated by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) over high ammonia emissions. Ammonia emissions primarily arise from agriculture and the large-scale application of manure to soils, with soils releasing excess ammonia into the water and climate. 

The Science-Based Targets Network (SBTN) is supporting companies with a new framework to account for biodiversity loss in their work. Through the framework companies will be able to measure how their activities contribute to land degradation and other impacts on biodiversity. 

A new study has highlighted how listening to forest soils can help scientists measure soil biodiversity. Ecoacoustics, where microphones record and provide access to scientists to the noises in the soil and the environment, have been found to monitor biodiversity in soils, and in turn support efforts to restore forest soils. 

An article in Nature journal, has raised the need for soil data to be more publicly accessible. The comment piece notes that new emerging technologies are allowing large quantities of data on soils to be collected, but there is a need for incentives to enable this data to promote soil science.

A US Environmental Health specialist has raised concerns for contaminated garden soils. Due to previous land uses involving pesticide use or heavy traffic impacts, garden soils can harbour dangerous chemicals, which pose risks to human health, particularly children. However there are means to reduce the risk including soil tests and composting, but costs can be a barrier. 

Researchers in the US are looking at how bioenergy crops could be a ‘win-win’ for the environment. They hope that bioenergy crops like corn ethanol or perennial grasses could both capture carbon in soils, as well as be used to provide electricity power through being burnt.