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Soil Care Network Newsletter

January 2020

by Anna Krzywoszyńska

 

Research and projects

  • As part of the carbon credit economy, direct payments are being used to incentivise farmers to change land management practices. This important paper shows that carbon finance is weak way of encouraging climate smart agriculture (and so soil conservation) in Kenya in comparison to e.g. agricultural extension. They further note: “if contemporary initiatives to reform agricultural production in ways that are ‘climate smart’ are to be effective, in other words, they will also need to be socially and environmentally just.”

  • Can soil science and geography be brought back together? Yes, write the authors of this paper, first in a series on three on the historical, current, and future interactions between these disciplines. This paper provides interesting insights into the history of soil geography and soil mapping, including its persisting close dependence on agricultural research, and the impact advances in geospatial mapping are having on both fields.

  • A great example of soil citizen science collaboration in Texas, The Grower Citizen Science Project. “Growers have collected soil samples, measured carbon dioxide fluxes, and shared yield data with scientists. Scientists have installed soil moisture and temperature sensors and analyzed nutrients, soil microbial communities, and other data and then shared their findings with growers.”.

  • Regenerative agriculture in Europe can work for both environments and societies. This excellent report from Systemiq and Soil Capital uses case studies in Spain and France to show “how, by implementing practices progressively, farms can improve the economics of their businesses throughout the transition to regenerative practices. They can achieve greater yield stability, improved profitability and greater resilience, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Soil policy and social movements

  • An exciting development as a new soil foundation has been formed in Europe. Re Soil Foundation will “promote scientific and technological research, training and dissemination activities to create a productive revolution that focuses on a sustainable bioeconomy with the territories at the center.” The foundation will work to revive the European Soil Framework Directive, and places healthy soils at the heart of healthy economies and healthy societies.

  • In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change has issued a report calling for a fifth of UK’s land to be transformed over the next 30 years to prioritise their carbon storage functions. This would involve “a high uptake of low-carbon farming practices and releasing 22% of land out of traditional agricultural production for long-term carbon sequestration”, and a stronger action on peatland regeneration and protection, amongst other measures.

 

Markets and technology

  • Soil genomic testing is becoming a more common-place element in the land managers’ soil assessment toolkit, as this feature on a US company called Trace Genomics (notably led by women) explores.

  • SoilBio app promises an easy way to measure soil health by combining soil analysis focusing on nematode DNA and geospatial information. The app is still under development.

Editorials, blogs and opinion

  • How to make regenerative agriculture a reality? The Walmart Foundation has funded a project in which “stakeholders from across the agriculture system and Forum for the Future will be leading a collaborative process to identify the key opportunities to scale regenerative agriculture in the United States, based on an understanding of current activities and initiatives. Our goal is to create a joined-up approach to driving action on the ground.”