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26 January 2024

The UK Parliament has published a briefing on The Future of Fertiliser Use, which highlights the economic and environmental concerns related to the use of artificial fertilisers, including the long term impact on soil health. The report also mentions the benefits of engaging in practices which improve soil health and reduce the need for artificial fertiliser, though points to financial and knowledge barriers to improving practices. 

Riverford Organic Farmers’ ‘Get Fair About Farming’ e-petition was debated in Parliament this week, addressing concerns around fairness in UK supply chains. Members of Parliament in attendance unanimously supported the petition, with Food, Farming and Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer promising new regulations to address some of the issues raised by the spring. 

Another POST Note published this week focuses on carbon offsetting and the credibility of carbon credits exchanged in voluntary carbon markets, along with potential approaches to tackle these issues. It outlines the various carbon offset projects in the Voluntary Carbon Market, including soil carbon sequestration, and recommends the extension of carbon codes to ensure high integrity markets. 

An article in the Financial Times has said that soils’ ability to store carbon is often overstated by large food companies who are investing in regenerative agriculture. It highlights a lack of consensus around the volume and longevity of carbon stored in soils and the threat of corporate greenwashing, though it does recognise the multiple benefits of regenerative agriculture for people and the planet. 

Research into regenerative farming by the University of Leeds has shown that soil health, increased profit and crop production, as well as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are the main benefits of regenerative agriculture. The study compared different farming practices across seven plots and used Paul-Tech’s soil system to gather data. 

A new soil lab is to be established at the Eden Project in Cornwall with half a million pounds of funding from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Good Growth programme. The facility will analyse soil, plants and feedstock, and aims to improve knowledge to aid the shift towards more environmentally friendly farming. 

The National Trust are making changes to protect the soil at Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, which is being damaged due to the high number of visitors attending each year. Ancient woodland in the estate means that the soil is rich with biodiversity, and the National Trust is introducing its ‘Protecting our Roots’ project which will see changes to parking and pathways to reduce visitors’ impact on nature. 

Imperial College London has secured funding to develop its work on soil microbe mapping technology to improve agricultural productivity. The Imperial startup FA Bio uses technology which collects data from fields and analyses it to identify microbes which could be used to develop agricultural bioproducts for key food crops.