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15 March 2024

Political events group Westminster Forum Projects hosted a policy forum on priorities for improving soil health in the UK. The conference brought together policymakers with key stakeholders from across industry, discussing the current state of UK soils and opportunities for improvement in light of the Environmental Improvement Plan’s (EIP) goal of bringing 60% of agricultural soils under sustainable management by 2030.

Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of a draft Soil Monitoring Law, which will see the mandatory monitoring of soil health, and mean that national governments must create plans for soil restoration. While environmental groups are pleased that the deal includes a range of soil health indicators, it has been criticised for lacking legally binding targets.

Farm assurance body Red Tractor has confirmed it will not be launching its Greener Farms Commitment as planned in April after farmer backlash and calls from the body’s founding members for the scheme to be dropped. Red Tractor’s chair Christine Tacon has said that a green standard in the future remains a possibility.

The Soil Association has launched a new campaign to protect rivers from industrial chicken farms following a recent report into farming and river pollution. They are calling on the government to ban the building of new intensive poultry units, and spoke on the BBC’s Farming Today programme about the need for the careful spreading of waste, which is regulated through the Farming Rules for Water.

Drinks brand Innocent Smoothies has launched a new promotional campaign which aims to raise awareness of the importance of soil health. The campaign plays on the fact that the advertisement boards are displayed at London Underground stations and features the slogan ‘We love the underground’. The campaign feeds into the brand’s recently announced £1 milion Farmer Innovation Fund which supports regenerative agriculture in its supply chains.

Lloyds banking group has announced a new project to support nature restoration in England. The bank has donated £250,000 between three nature recovery projects which are working to create nature corridors to boost biodiversity, develop nature-based solutions to protect against flooding, and improve soil health and water quality through tree planting wetland restoration.

A new government funded project is bringing together agri-tech tools and researchers to help farmers understand more about how soil health and root health interact. The Thriving Roots Underpinning Total Soil Heath (TRUTH) project aims to create new technology to assess crop roots and how they are impacted by their farming system, and the impact of this on overall soil health.