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Soil Care Network Newsletter

March 2020

by Anna Krzywoszyńska


Research and projects

  • Could we use cemeteries to create better urban ecosystems? This article proposes a new form of urban land use which combines burials and green corridors to create better ecosystem connectivity in and around cities while preventing the expansion of cemeteries into soils which can be better used for other purposes. Beautiful idea!

  • Changes to land use can help achieve net zero carbon emission targets, but how and where land use is implemented matters. This important article compares climate change policy targets with empirical land use changes for afforestation and peatland restoration in Scotland. It finds that the choice of land use change siting is strongly informed by socioeconomic and not just biophysical factors. This leads to a clustering of land use changes which limits the carbon gains, and shows the inadequacy of using indicators such as number of trees planted as proxies for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

  • ‘The destructive effects of palm oil plantations on land are well known. There is a glimmer of hope however as recent research finds that soil organisms survive in microhabitats at the base of palm fronds, creating a biodiversity reservoir which can help restore the soils to health.

  • Hydroponic growing systems are increasingly proposed as a solution to issues associated with land use. This speculative essay builds on the current trajectories of hydroponic success in the Netherlands to imagine a dystopia/utopia in which these ‘sustainable’ technologies pollute the Earth to the point of rendering it inhabitable.

  • Further research bolsters the claim that restoring soil carbon can play a huge role in climate change mitigation, food security, and ecosystem improvement. Most of the study’s projected soils’ carbon sequestration potential, around 40 percent, can be achieved simply by leaving existing soil alone—that is, not continuing to expand agriculture and plantation growth across the globe. "Most of the ongoing destruction of these ecosystems is about expanding the footprint of agriculture, so slowing or halting that expansion is an important strategy," said Deborah Bossio, principal study author and lead soil scientist for The Nature Conservancy. Read more about the study here and see the final paper here.

  • Soil is certainly invested with a lot of hope at the moment, but is this hopefulness leading to bad science? This fascinating critical paper argues that ‘bypass’ and ‘hyperbole’ are being used in soil sciences to “systematically ignore certain bodies of “old” literature, even when they are extremely relevant, and also to unduly inflate the potential significance of research achievements”. The importance of curbing these tendencies is discussed.

Soil policy and social movements

  • Farmer managed natural regeneration is a traditional coppicing method which regenerates land and provides livelihoods, and it is now receiving serious support with the Grand African Savannah Green Up. The method uses existing seed banks and stumps to regenerate coppicing forests. Land rights and legal protection of land use are important to the uptake; as in many other cases, strengthening legal and institutional frameworks and ensuring access to land are crucial for the success of soil restoration using this method.

  • In better news, have you heard of Make Soil? This global movement and online platform connects people so that communities can make soil together. By redefining composting as making soil, Soil Maker helps individuals to easily and safely post their Soil Sites to their online map, invite their neighbours and friends, and collaborate in soil-making. Anyone with food waste, anywhere in the world, can use MakeSoil to find Soil Makers near them or start a Soil Site themselves


Markets and technology

Watching and listening

  • The Soil Sense podcast 2nd season has now been released. Episodes highlight partnerships, soil fertility concerns and approaches, earthworm dynamics, salinity management, grazing cover crops, strip till and cover crops, evaluating Extension programs to benefit farmers, education opportunities for modern agriculture in unexpected places, transitioning to soil health practices and more!

  • A new movie Sovereign Soil is a moving depiction of the regenerative power of soil and land. It is the first of a planned triptych of documentaries depicting the intimacies of human relationship with land, and follows an indigenous Canadian community’s back-to-land growing project.

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