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17 November 2023

This week saw the appointment of a new Environment Minister in the UK after the resignation of Therese Coffey in a surprise cabinet reshuffle. Seen as a demotion by some, ex-Health Minister Steve Barclay has stated his commitment to ‘back British farming’, rural communities and the environment. 

Campaigners have raised concerns after it emerged that false soil samples were submitted for over 100 farm planning applications in Northern Ireland between 2015 and 2022, with around three-quarters being approved. False samples could mean that farm soils can’t regulate slurry run-off, threatening nearby lakes and rivers. 

Analysis by Emergen Research has shown that the soil monitoring market could be worth $1,483 million by 2032, up from $346 million in 2019. This rise is being driven by the increasing need to improve productivity and the growing adoption of sustainable agricultural practices. 

Ecologist Kevin Richard Butt has warned that, if in the wrong ecosystem, earthworms can cause more harm than good. European earthworms established in North America are causing issues by altering the nutrients in the soil and unlocking carbon stored in arctic soils. As such, they are viewed as an invasive species, serving as a warning of the consequences of the unintended movement of species. 

Tesco have announced the accelerated rollout of low carbon fertiliser use across their supply chain. After initial trials showed positive results, the new phase will see use on 13,000 hectares, up from 1,300. Suppliers involved in the trial have spoken of their responsibility to protect soil health and the overall success of the trial so far. 

Sustainable Soils Alliance Executive Director Ellen Fay has written on the need for a greater understanding of the importance of soil within the construction industry. She says that soils hold the answer to many environmental challenges faced by the sector, and highlights the risk of poor soil management.

King Arthur Baking Company has launched a new 100% regeneratively grown whole wheat flour in the US. Working with Washington research lab Breadlad, they have created a new blend which includes perennial grains, and utilises practices which reduce soil disturbance. The packaging highlights the importance of regenerative farming to soil health, and is part of the brand’s goal for all flour to be regeneratively grown by 2030. 

Scientists in China have developed a way to grow plants in lunar soils by adding three types of bacteria to produce phosphorus - the component otherwise missing. The team were able to grow Nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of tobacco, that was larger and with more robust roots than untreated samples. 

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is inviting children aged 5-14 years old from across the world to submit a poster illustrating the importance of healthy soils in creating resilient food systems, with the winner announced on World Soil Day on 5th December. Find out how to apply here!