top of page

Soil Care Network Newsletter

October 2020

by Emma Lietz Bilecky



  • Loconto and Rajão have published a timely special issue on land models in Land Use Policy. The excellent collection of papers engages with the realities of constructing relations between maps and territories, uncovering the politics of knowledge involved in the making and using of land models. The special issue includes fascinating articles on modelling carbon in agriculture, the land sparing vs. land sharing debate, the role of models in ‘opening up’ the Amazon to industrialised agriculture, and much more.

  • The Green Deal for Europe “places soil management at the heart of initiatives for a climate-neutral Europe and a pollution‐free environment” by 2050. To achieve this, measuring and assessing soil functions is possible - this study on soil multifunctionality provides a new framework for monitoring soil quality at the European scale where both the supply of soil functions and their interactions are considered.

  • Does private land ownership get in the way of environmental soil governance? Very much so, finds this interesting study which examined the legal frameworks within the EU and found that in the EU “free movement of capital takes priority over soil protection, meaning that even when regulations that prohibit legal persons from acquiring land for purposes other than agriculture are in force, if aspiring investors wish to, they can still get a given piece of land through the legal loopholes.” 

  • The National Geographic offers an interesting report on phosphorus, ‘a non-negotiable requirement for life’, a key fertiliser for modern agriculture, mined in only a handful of places in the world, and running out fast. Legacy phosphorus - soil reserves of phosphorus due to decades of fertilisation - are one way to postpone peak phosphorus. 

  • An article published in Geoderma in August calls for an end to ‘Helicopter research,’ which “describes the situation where scientists from wealthier nations collect soil samples from less-developed countries, take the samples back to their country for analysis and publish the results with little involvement of local researchers.” The article has ignited lively and necessary debate.

  • A new study shows that biochar not only sequesters carbon, but can reduce irrigation needs by up to 40%. Read about the study 

  • New research in Western Australia suggests that soil microbes can be used to improve the costly and time-consuming process of assessing ecological restoration projects at abandoned mine sites

  • Researchers have used ancient soil minerals to reconstruct past climates, when earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels ranged between 1,400 and 4,000 parts per million. Using tiny minerals called siderites, researchers from Penn State, ETH Zurich and CASP in Cambridge, U.K., were able to reconstruct the climate at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, 56 million years ago. The researchers found a mean annual air temperature at the equator around 106 Fahrenheit and an average summer temperature was 73 F in Arctic Siberia. They report their findings in a recent issue of Nature Geoscience.

  • A University of Alberta study shows that the growth of adult trees is linked to their participation in fungal networks living in the forest soil.


Upcoming Events

  • The Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity will be held from 2-4 February 2021, at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy. The main objective is to fill some critical knowledge gaps and promote discussion among policy makers, food producers, scientists, practitioners and other stakeholders on solutions to live in harmony with nature, and ultimately, achieve the SDGs through the conservation and sustainable use of soil biodiversity.


Soil in the News

  • Rattan Lal received the Arrell Global Food Innovation Award and the 50th World Food Prize this month. Joined by Al Gore pitching national soil health policy, Lal suggested that soil management can provide an opportunity for a “green recovery” from the Coronavirus pandemic through carbon sequestration.

  • Investing in soil health is one of the most important steps to address global food security, climate change and the financial well-being of farmers, argues this article in Forbes magazine

  • The FAO launched the Global Soil Doctors Programme, a farmer-to-farmer training program to provide training, educational material and soil testing kits to build capacity on principles of soil science and sustainable soil management.


New Releases

  • Charles Massy, an Australian farmer who became famous for his book “The Call of the Reed Warbler”, is campaigning for regenerative agriculture and efforts in soil conservation and regeneration. This editorial and video provide a nice introduction to his story.

bottom of page