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8 September 2023

Campaigners, including the SSA, have called on the government to take ‘urgent action’ towards improving soil health and reversing years of degradation as the UK marks Organic September. Soils have been overlooked in environmental policy, and more resources are needed to help farmers manage and restore their land. It is warned that without action, food supplies, climate and nature are at risk. 

A Defra survey has revealed that almost two thirds of farmers do not feel positive about the future of farming, citing high costs and policy uncertainty as areas of concern. There is an appetite for diversification, with almost half saying that while they plan to stay in farming, they aim to transition into some non-farming areas to increase profitability. 

The Soil Association is petitioning for a reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers, citing their negative impact on nature, climate and human health. They are asking the government to support farmers in transitioning towards more nature friendly practices, and highlight that ambitious net-zero targets are unreachable while artificial fertiliser use continues. 

The Agroforestry Show, co-run by the Woodland Trust and the Soil Association was held in Swindon this week, bringing together professionals and industry experts to learn about and debate pressing issues facing farmers and foresters. A session was held on Improving Crop and Soil Health with Trees which highlighted how effective planting of trees can reduce dependency on fertiliser and pesticide use. 

Invasive species have been making the headlines, with concerns being raised about increased numbers of Asian hornet sightings in the UK. Threatening biodiversity, their ability to quickly wipe out bee and other insect populations puts UK crops at risk. It is thought that they could be entering the country through unregulated soil imports. 

An article in Wicked Leeks magazine explores the connection between soil health and human health. Research by biologist Anne Bicklé, reveals that microbes found in healthy soil improve plants’ ability to take on nutrients, which are then passed on to humans when consumed. Such research looks to be an exciting and important emerging area of study. 

Miami restaurant Rum Room has been working with Compost for Life to turn their own food waste into compost. This is then returned to the restaurant garden to grow herbs and, eventually, vegetables and greens, for their next diners. This requires careful composting and commitment from the whole kitchen team, but demonstrates an ambitious circular economy being introduced to tackle a pressing issue in the food industry.