Soil

It takes about 4 months to grow a beetroot from seed. It takes at least 200 years to make one inch of decent topsoil to grow it. The relationships between roots, fungi and soil - mycorrhizal associations - reveals new ways of looking at soil. I would add that you need to include the role of soil animals, especially Onychurid springtails, in that relationship. These creatures act like 'the bees of the soil' in that they accidentally transfer fungal spores to the plant roots. You can contribute to RSA Food Farming & Countryside Commission.
Techniques to improve soil health by produced by Innovation for Agriculture ups the role of biology in improving soil health and shows the value of animals and how to use over crops to capture more sun. Down to earth and practical.
Big Soil Community. FERA are "coordinating a community effort to sample and analyse the biodiversity of our soil microbial communities at scale, in a cost-effective and timely manner". Send a sample and £50 deposit to join to find out about the microbes and fungi on your soil to help "provide a rich benchmark of how these biological populations change across different farming systems". Shame they don't do same for soil animals!
Soil HealthSoil 'health' is a relatively new term that reflects the living aspects of the ssoil - not just the chemical and physical components. Unsustainable Soil Practices says that due to soil degradation, "more than 3.2 billion people affected, this is already one of the world’s biggest environmental problems"
Minister George Eustace unveils scheme with strong emphasis on soil health. He said a new agri-environment scheme must be "new and simple", which rewards every farmer for their work towards achieving a better, more green environment. "If we improve the health and the fertility of our soils, you can improve water quality, you can help address issues such as climate change and you can reduce fertiliser use.” Bout time brov
Measuring water infiltration - as measure of good soil
There is a case being made that we can do lots more for our soil following Brexit. This is the line Gove wants to promote. And I welcome the renewed interest in the soil - about time. But we could be in the EU promoting the 'nationalisation' of the CAP, which is under serious consideration at the present. That would give us the same controls - to alter what we subsidise in food and farming..We should remember that the EU tried to introduce a Soils Directive - but it was the UK that dive bombed it.
No Till
Soil Matters is an EU funded report. "Soil has become an increasing pertinent topic in agri-food, but what are the best management techniques for saving what we have and for building better soil for the future?" . One of the articles questions value on 'no-till' - as I do in Bittersweet Brexit and here in my soil animal site. Here I question whether no-till has reduced soil carbon losses, or encouraged the use of weedkillers that cause more losses.
Save our Arable Soils
Losses of carbon from ‘Crop’ soils – significant for both 1978 to 2007 and 1998 to 2007.
But v few talk about it. And who has calculated actual loss? I came up with loss of CO2 = 2.5% of all UK losses. Should be gains.
•Veg & Grain growing wrecking our best land
•Grades 1 & 2 most affected, particularly in Eastern England
•2 Million tonnes lost each year to erosion, water and air
•Half number soil animals as under pasture
Biodiversity of soils - by EU soil scientists
Networking our Science to measure & manage our soil organic matter (SOM) better
Bittersweet Brexit investigates why this is happening and one suggestion for improvement is to grow cover cropsTrials of green cover crops in UK
Grass-fed Beef - the most vegan item in the supermarket Raising beef is good for the planet
Government roleGovernment to give farmers targets to improve soil health. At last! Past governments - both New Labour and Coalition fought off EU Soils Directive. Pow says "Farmers can be given incentives to improve soil management, such as by crop rotation". Yet when the EU suggested a 3 year crop rotation, this was ridiculed by Tory Environment Minister Andrea Leadsom as 'simply ridiculous and bureaucratic' - p119 in Bittersweet Brexit. See my soil animals site (www.soilanimals.com) on how we could measure soil health.
New Sustainable Soils Allianceis about flood prevention, food security, human health, climate mitigation & water quality. Opened with Michael Gove speech on soils, he said: "Countries can withstand coups d'etat, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility...“If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improves yields but in the long-term undercut the future fertility of the soil, you can increase yields year-on-year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feat." I agree - and have offered my services to the Alliance.
SSA Launch Report and Call to Action "”Soil is the thin layer that separates civilisation from chaos, and life from death”. It spells out four distinct asks: • A regulatory framework to promote best practice and deter harmful soil management practice • A viable system for the monitoring and evaluation of the quality of our soils • A robust compliance system of economic incentives balanced with regulatory measures • Investment in training, education and public communication and a career path for farming as a profession
Can dirt save the world?
75% of Earth's Land Areas degraded Lands have either become deserts, are polluted, or have been deforested and converted to agricultural production are the main causes of species extinctions. Instead of which..
Carbon Farming is gathering momentum at a time when US national climate policy is backsliding. "In the absence of federal leadership on climate — and as emissions continue to rise globally, shrinking the time available to forestall worst-case outcomes — state and local governments (as well as nonprofits) have begun to look into carbon farming. Last year, Hawaii passed legislation meant to keep it aligned with the Paris agreement. The New York state assemblywoman Didi Barrett introduced legislation that would make tax credits available to farmers who increase soil carbon.
Soil Power - the Dirty way to Green the world "Scientists are documenting how sequestering carbon in soil can produce a double dividend: It reduces climate change by extracting carbon from the atmosphere, and it restores the health of degraded soil and increases agricultural yields. Many scientists and farmers believe the emerging understanding of soil’s role in climate stability and agricultural productivity will prompt a paradigm shift in agriculture." For lots more, check out my site Soil Animals & Global Warming.
'Soi'l gets a few mentions in IPCC Report Oct 2018' C3.1 and C 3.5 includes soil carbon sequestration as possible ways for Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), and again on p29 when looking at possible land sector options - along with reforestation, sustainable diets and reduced food waste.

Agriculture must be part of the effort to tackle climate change’:

Encouraging adoption of climate smart food production in Europe

Climate smart agriculture can help tackle global warming and is economically viable, participants of a five-year European project conclude. How can uptake be encouraged? "Focusing on soil health, producers can not only help reduce their contribution to emission levels, they can actually take carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil" The farming practices implemented within SOLMACC fell under four main categories; nutrient management crop rotation, tillage management and agroforestry. Each was adapted to local farm conditions.
Soil can store methane "Healthy soil bacteria absorb more methane per day than a cow produces in an entire year...Flatulent cows may now graze in peace as agricultural science has found the greenhouse gas methane can be absorbed by soil. Livestock are a sustainable farming option on native grasslands Typical methane production by beef cattle is round about 60 kilograms of methane per year, and some of the high country soils are taking more than that out of the atmosphere every day, so one hectare is taking out, or oxidising more methane than a cow produces in a year" "

Does the answer really lie in the soil?*


'Regenerative Agriculture' according to Scientific American can repair our soils. 3 or 4 main practices need to be introduced. Give up on ploughing so as to minimize disturbance of the soil; plant cover crops to both protect the ground from erosion and build up soil organic matter; and adopt complex crop rotation pattern to thwart pests and pathogens. Also reintroduce livestock to graze cover crops and manure their fields.
Report in Proceedings on National Sciences says “It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if ‘Hothouse Earth’ becomes the reality. Improved forest, agricultural and soil management; biodiversity conservation and technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground are needed."
* This is based on the catchphrase of a character in the comedy series of the 1950s/60s 'Beyond our Ken'. The character Arthur Fallowfield (based on a Dorset farmer Ralph Wightman, a regular contributor to Any Questions) always used to start his answer to any question with 'Well, I think the answer lies in the soil'.

BBC Gardeners World crew

Birth of the EarthCC featured on BBC Gardeners World showing the role of soil animals - smaller than worms and bigger then fungi in the soil, from his home laboratory and garden - See my 'strange world'..
But where did the soil come from? Have you ever asked yourself these questions: "Is the Soil a living entity?" and "Do you believe in 'Darwinian' evolution?" If you answer 'yes' to each of these, have you then asked: "In which case, when did the soil evolve?"
It wasn't always here. When our planet spun off form the sun 4.5 billion years ago, it was just rock and water. About 2 billion years ago there were signs of life, but no soil. Half a billion years ago there were early forms of plants, but no signs of roots in the soil as we know it today. Yet now we call our planet 'the earth' named after the soil. So when did the soil emerge? It wasn't dropped like manna from heaven, so how did it appear? This web page of mine Birth of the Earth looks for an answer. This is something Brexit will not affect..

The first time I have presented in public my theory about the Birth of Earth was at Birch Community Centre Sept 2018, and it was 'a good do' on an awful night thatnks to organisers caterers and audience.