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Soil Care Network Newsletter

December 2019

by Anna Krzywoszyńska

 

Research and projects

  • At the same time, there is more evidence that the crisis is truly upon us in the UK - this study of an arable farm in Nottinghamshire found that – under the current management regime – the topsoil could be eroded in 138 years with bedrock exposure occurring in 212 years.

  • Adopting soil and water conservation (SWC) technologies can enhance ecologies and yields, but these methods can be labour-intensive; this paper helpfully quantifies the labour cost of their adoption in Ethiopia : “The estimated labour impacts also provide a plausible explanation for why farmers may not adopt SWC technologies despite their economic profitability.”

  • Switching to soils-protecting farming methods is not just a technical issue, but a process which involves “subjective, nonmaterial factors associated with culture, values, ethics, identity, and emotion that operate at individual, household, and community scales and interact with regional, national and global processes”, this research from Australia finds.

  • Shifting land use away from agriculture in drained peatlands is becoming a policy priority in the EU in the light of the carbon emissions and land degradation costs of using these lands. This research reviews landowners’ land use change preferences in six European regions: “Our results show that mainly hard economic variables determine preferred land use alternatives: the productivity of resource systems, the economic value of land and market incentives. Other variables, such as the heterogeneity of users and conflicts among them, are more important with respect to the implementation of alternatives.” 

  • Should we ‘regenerate’ deserts? This fascinating paper shows that man-made oasis creation can in fact degrade desert ecosystems further: “Desert development causes a rapid decline in the surrounding groundwater table, increases pollution in soil and groundwater and is associated with an increased frequency of strong sandstorms. Desert development seems to have improved the environment and promoted the economy, but there is a huge cost for the overexploitation of water resources and the transfer of pollution from surface to underground, which could cause deserts to degrade further.”

  • The effects of microplastics pollution in soils are very serious: researchers found that “microplastics affect plant-soil systems  in  a  way  that  triggers  a  cascade  of  events  that  alter  the  soil’s  biophysical environment”, with the potential to “trigger environmental  change  that  threatens  agroecosystems  and  terrestrial  biodiversity”.

Soil policy and social movements

  • Who are the movers and shakers in the world of soil policy and activism? In honor of World Soil Day, Food Tank is highlighting 15 organizations around the globe working to use soil to reverse the damaging effects of climate change, stop soil from disappearing due to erosion, and improve farmers’ well-being and connection to their land

 

Markets and technology

  • Turning deserts into oases? A tech start-up Desert Control has developed a patented formulation process using clay and water to create a unique compound called Liquid NanoClay (LNC). “Applying LNC to arid soil and desert sand enables and enhances the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients, and can thereby turn deserts into fertile green land.”

  • In-field soil analysis is becoming cheaper and more accessible; IBM has just secured funding for AgroPad, which will be able to perform soil analysis remotely and will only be the size of a business card.

Editorials, blogs and opinion

  • Having good soil maps is key to supporting productive agriculture in Africa, however data is often lacking. This piece in the Conversation gives some insights into the recent efforts to map soils of Ethiopia and other African countries to create Africa Soil Information Service.

 

Training