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24 November 2023

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made his Autumn statement this week, drawing criticism from environmental experts. The NFU have highlighted that farmers will benefit from changes to National Insurance payments, though they say that “the majority look set to miss out”. Environment groups say that plans are short term fixes which fall behind commitments made by the EU and US.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has said that soil could be our ‘most overlooked asset’ in combatting climate change. Pointing to research by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, it says that properly managed soil will ensure future food demands are met and greenhouse gas emissions are met. 

The NFU has announced two independent reviews it will be conducting on the governance of the Red Tractor assurance scheme. This is following  controversy around the Red Tractor’s Greener Farms Commitment (GFC) as it has emerged that the review into the organisation’s governance is to be led by Red Tractor itself, though led by an independent consultant. The GFC is on hold while the governance review takes place, which was called for when the new scheme was set to be introduced without farmer input or technical committee oversight. 

A new programme has kicked off in Yorkshire, which looks at the role of new woodlands in mitigating the impacts of climate change. One aspect of the project focuses on how new tree planting impacts soil carbon and will measure soil before planting new trees and track change over time to show how much carbon is stored thanks to the new woodland. 

The European Mission Soil Week was held this week, bringing together the European soil community to discuss pathways towards soil health. The three-day conference focused on soil monitoring and soil health in the context of the proposed European Soil Monitoring Law.

Scientists in Australia are researching how soil translocation could protect against future impacts of climate change. They are considering whether moving soils between locations could improve the resilience of crops, for example moving soils rich in drought-tolerant bacteria to areas where drought is becoming an issue. 

A team of researchers from the University of Bristol have found that soils impacted by human activity have a different microbial make up to those untouched by humans. Studying soils at various locations around the city, researchers engaged the local community to investigate urban soils and the DNA sequences contained within them. 

A Christmas tree farm in York has employed five sheep to improve the sustainability of their production. The use of sheep means that the farm does not have to mow the fields, and their manure acts as a natural fertiliser. This, combined with their tree recycling service aims to maximise benefits to the soil and environment.