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19 January 2024

The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has warned that the UK Government is falling short on progress with their Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP). The EOP highlighted that the government is on track to achieve only four of 40 targets, which include actions on sustainable soil management, though progress has been made in reducing air and chemical pollutants.  

A new consortium has launched which will provide the four devolved UK governments with the evidence required to help drive the land change needed to achieve Net Zero. With £6.25 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Land Use for Net Zero (LUNZ) Hub is guided by three pillars of soil health and carbon dynamics, land use and agricultural systems. 

UK farmers are being thanked for their efforts to mitigate the impact of flooding on nearby towns and cities by letting their fields flood. Tim Field, a farmer in the Cotswolds, spoke of the importance of increasing resilience through Nature Based Solutions, including increasing soil health and carbon storage through sustainable farming. 

Police in Northern Ireland are investigating 29 claims of fraudulent soil samples which have been submitted as part of planning applications for new livestock sheds and biogas plants. Due to environmental concerns around the impact of this construction, applications are required to be supported by soil samples, however over the past year concerns have been raised after it was shown that a number of these applications were accompanied by falsified samples. 

A report commissioned by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been published, providing guidance on standards for carbon accounting. The study analysed 81 global carbon calculators, highlighting differences in how soil carbon sequestration is measured and pointing to the need for accurate and comprehensive carbon accounting tools. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken at the World Economic Forum conference and said that soil health is increasingly a matter of national security. In a speech, he highlighted the domino effect of soil degradation, and its impact on hunger, natural disaster, trade and migration. He said that getting ‘seeds and soil’ right will help answer a lot of the challenges our world will face in the coming decades. 

New technology has been developed which generates electricity from the microbes in soil. By ensuring constant access to water and air, the energy produced by the microbes can now be harvested and stored. Although only a small amount of electricity is produced, it is hoped that the findings could help generate the power needed for farmers looking to monitor their soil and generate soil health data. 

A study has shown that agricultural fertilisers contribute to microplastic concentration in UK soils. Researchers from Lancaster University and Rothamsted Research showed that soils which have been ‘amended’ with organic or inorganic fertiliser over the last 50 years had increased microplastic concentration.