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Soil Care Network Newsletter

January 2021

by Emma Lietz Bilecky, in collaboration with Thirze Hermans, Michiel van de Pavert, and Anna Krzywoszynska

Soil Research


  • Last year’s paper by Bavaye on hyperbole and bypass in soil science has started a fascinating public reflection on the state of this crucial discipline. In the most recent addition to the conversation, early career researchers reflect on how the publish-or-perish research culture is shaping the discipline, and what the obligations of established colleagues are to rectify the issues.


  • A paper on the interactions between carbon, soil and soil enzymes raises new questions about how long sequestered carbon can stay in the ground. The Princeton study shows soil enzymes can help release carbon molecules from clay particles, making them accessible to soil microbes and more mobile in soil ecosystems.




  • New research has found that more than 70% of soil bacteria feed on the hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane in the air we breathe. The paper, published in Nature Microbiology, suggests soil bacteria could play a key role in regulating atmospheric pollution and climate change. 




  • What constitutes ‘progress’ in farming in relation to soils? This new archeological research finds that sophisticated means of maintaining soil fertility existed throughout Europe everywhere, to a greater or lesser extent, since the very beginnings of agricultural history, confirming the high level of skill in prehistoric and Early Medieval farming practices. 


  • Is the Amazon a wilderness to conserve, or a resource to extract? Research on the Amazonian anthroposols, cultivated forests, and earthworks, shows the long entangled story of humans and ecosystems which goes beyond such questions, and demands a future of land use which protects both humans and other lives. 



  • Purdue University scientists found that the soil microbe trichoderma harzianum helps wild tomato growth and disease defense, while most varieties under cultivation lack the ability to benefit from these soil microbial partnerships. Scientists hope the genes could strengthen modern hybrids

Soil Policy


  • A new report from the Microbiology Society is urging microbiologists to partner with farmers and agricultural colleges to expand research on soil health.



  • 25 institutions from 24 European countries have come together to form the EJP SOIL commission to provide sustainable agricultural soil management solutions which target climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable agricultural production, ecosystem services and restoration and prevention of land and soil degradation.


  • A new FAO resource - SoiLEX - provides information about legal instruments for soil protection and soil governance around the world.



  • Canada is set to invest up to 55 million Canadian dollars in the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund. The Fund supports private sector projects in developing countries that use sustainable land management techniques to restore degraded ecosystems and adapt to green economies.

​Other News


New Resources for Growers

  • This comprehensive new resource - the Good Soil Guide - discusses practical tips for soil health management and resilience. 


  • The Rodale Institute will host a three-part webinar on No-Till Organic Cover Cropping for Weed Suppression and Soil Health, beginning February 3. 


  • The Soil Health U and Trade Show took place January 21, 2021 and session recordings are now available online.


  • The Living Soil Handbook by Farmer Jesse of the No Till Grower’s podcast is now available for pre-order from Chelsea Green Publishing.


Fun & Soily Educational Resources!


  • Sierra Magazine has published a beautiful article on the degradation of cryptogamic soils in US National Parks that discusses current research to rebuild damaged biocrusts. 


  • Artists and soil scientists use pigments collected from soils and ash in this fun story published in Smithsonian Magazine.


  • A BBC Food article looks at the importance of soil health, the UK’s soil crisis,  and suggests ways for people to become involved.



  • Are urban soils included in the no-till revolution? Loren Byrne discusses the importance of urban habitats, making the case for greater attention to these often-overlooked “no-till” soil ecosystems.

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