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Soil Care Network Newsletter

September 2018

by Anna Krzywoszyńska

Research

  • At Wageningen University in the Netherlands, scientists are coding an app that will allow farmers in countries as far away as China to compare soil quality with their smartphones. The platform will allow food producers in similar climates abroad to assess the long-term impact of these farming techniques and the merits of applying them to their own land.

  •  German scientists have conducted the first investigation into the physical and biological effects of microplastic particles on the soil and its microbes. Mircoplastics are changing environmental conditions for microbes.

  •  What soil organisms do matters not only in the top layers of the soil. Half of the world's soil carbon is stored below 20 cm, and what happens to it depends on the microbes’ energy access, with consequences for negative feedback loops as the climate changes.

  • Changes in climate affect macroporosity of soils, limiting their resilience to erosion and making them more prone to flooding

  • A new project is using a Critical Zone approach to study the impact of climate change on biogeochemistry in soil, and their impact on hydrology. This project is really recognising the earth- and Earth-shaping power of soil organisms!

  • Soil can act as a living filter and capture antibiotics and other difficult pollutants from wastewater

  • Plants ‘actively cultivate’ root soil microbiota; new insights into the rhizophagy (root-eating) cycle, with the inevitable promises of re-designing soil microbial ecosystems for the benefit of human agriculture

  • A new species of blind swamp eel is the newly discovered member of the soil macrofauna!

  • Put soils at the heart of food systems to make them resilient to climate change – couldn’t agree more, although the actual findings of the project are much less upbeat than the title of the article would suggest

  • New research into biochar production for agricultural use combines waste paper and biogas digestate to replace synthetic fertiliser, a promising circular economy project

  • Climate change may make heavy metals and other pollutants more mobile in soil and between soils and other media

  • Preventing conflict by focusing on land: an interesting report with rich case studies  

  • Some interesting insights into ‘microbial dark matter’, or uncultured microbes – also dominant in soils

Soils in the news

Policy and social movemements

  • In Brazil, a promising state-sponsored programme of dryland ecosystem restoration seems to be having significant success. “Each URAD initiative to recover a watershed is built on a fully integrated environmental, social and economic intervention. Environmental interventions aim to manage and conserve soil, recover spring water, preserve biological diversity and create the conditions that will make the area useful for food production.”

  • The EU cannot afford to ignore its soils any longer, says European Academies' Science Advisory Council - calling for better farming advisory services, and for soil sustainability indicators to be part of the revised Common Agricultural Policy

  • New legislation to safeguard against soil pollution comes into effect in China

 

Editorials, blogs and opinion

Resources