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22 December 2023

The Scottish government has announced its draft budget for the next year, which will see a £33 million cut to the rural budget, including to the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme, which campaigners say undermines Scotland’s ambition to be a leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. The Basic Payment Scheme will remain the same under the new budget.  

 The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has said that an extra £4 billion per year for England’s agricultural budget is essential if the government is to achieve its environmental and food production targets. Their research has shown that an extra £2.7 billion is required for the government to deliver its Environmental Improvement Plan, which includes measures to improve soil health. 

 Reuters has commented on the omission of soil from the final declaration of COP28. They say that soil and agriculture are not recognised for their role in climate change mitigation and are instead seen as something that requires adaption, and hence receive less funding. The article calls for the regeneration of soils to be given equal importance as the development of renewable energy. 

 Initial results of Northern Ireland’s Soil Nutrient Health Scheme were distributed last week, and farmers have been commenting on the value of the scheme. A farmer in Castlewellan has said that participation in scheme, which provides free soil testing and analysis, was a ‘no-brainer’, and spoke of the importance of understanding farm soils.  

 The Welsh government has launched a formal objection to plans to build a new energy park in Caerphilly due to the risk to soil caused by new wind turbines. The government’s Soil Policy & Agricultural Land Use Planning Unit has said that the plans contradict planning policy and would damage peatlands, pointing out that there is no sufficient plan to restore soils lost.  

 A mound of contaminated soil in Bristol looks set to be removed after it was excavated in May. The contractors building the park discovered that the topsoil was contaminated with lead, meaning it could not be re-spread as planned. There has since been an ongoing legal battle between Bristol City Council and the contractor over who will pay for its removal, which is now thought to be resolved.  

A study in New Zealand has found that intercropping vines with hemp plants can improve soil health and carbon storage. The study was designed to improve harvests on land which lacks fertile soil, and along with the improvement in soil health, also found an improvement in the taste of the wine produced.  

That’s a wrap for the Week in Soil in 2023! You can find the Sustainable Soils Alliance’s winter newsletter with our main achievements of the year and updates on our policy work. We wish all our readers, supporters and the soil community a relaxing festive break and a very Happy New Year! The Week in Soil will be back on Friday 12th January with our round-up of all things soil at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, as well as the usual updates.