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1 September 2023

The dates for applications to open for the Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 (SFI 23) have been announced by Defra. Farmers can sign up from 18th September and are invited to register their interest from 30th August. SFI 23 provides funding for 23 different actions that include soil health. Farmers are concerned that they are not able to plan what to plant during the Autumn season as a result of the SFI 23 opening dates having been delayed. Defra had originally announced applications would open in August.

Defra has awarded twelve new peatland restoration projects funding. £50 million is being spent by the government on peatland restoration. Peat soils are important ecosystems, providing natural habitats as well as natural carbon storage. Projects that are receiving funds include the Great North Bog and Dorset Heaths.

A project, to prevent eroded metal contaminated soils from polluting a tributary of the river Tyne, has been completed. Soils have been contaminated near the river Tyne due to historic coal mines and contain high amounts of lead, cadmium and zinc. Rebuilt stone embankments have been put in place to prevent the erosion of soils into the rivers.

The Women in Dairy Conference is planned to take place in September and will include a discussion on soil health. Elizabeth Stockdale, Head of Agronomy at NIAB will be raising the potential of an on-farm toolkit to assess soil health via a Soil Health Scorecard. Other speakers will be discussing diversity and routes into dairy farming. 

A blackcurrant grower for Ribena, Rosie Begg has been taking a closer look at soil microbes to build climate resilience. Through composting and cover crops soil health has been improved. Further support around soil science is being provided by the University of East Anglia and a soil lab and agronomists from the company that owns the Ribena-brand, Suntory. 

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) has been making the case for an agroecological transition across Africa, particularly in the Congo basin. Attendees at a forum in Kinshasa, have highlighted current problems with impoverished soils, climate change and armed conflict threatening food security.

A new study has shown that due to heat stress, soil microbes release more organic chemicals into the atmosphere. This has the potential to impact the role of soils in storing or sequestering carbon and playing a role in mitigating climate change as droughts become more regular.