Soil Care Network Newsletter
November 2021
by Michiel van de Pavert, in collaboration with Thirze Hermans, Anna Krzywoszynska, and Emma Lietz Bilecky

  • The recording of the fourth SoilTalk “Soil health : a new buzzword or a new paradigm?" is now online.

Soil News

  • Dust storms, which can contain pollutants, can transform wind patterns. Dust storms become more frequent with drier conditions and less vegetative soil cover. 

  • The Back to Earth exhibition was held in London in 2020; this short article gives a sneak preview of the book coming out of this event.

 

  • This article provides a clear explanation of the usage of cover crops to increase nitrogen availability for the next crop. It is suggested that ‘’the cover crop should consist of at least 30% of established legume in the cover crop stand and should be terminated at early bloom.’’

Soil Policy

  • Here is the list of the key reforms in the new CAP that will start in 2023. One objective is to continue to increase direct payments per hectare of agricultural land. Only 25% of the direct payments will be allocated to eco-schemes.

 

  • At COP26, twenty-six nations set out new commitments to change their agricultural policies.

  • The European Citizen initiative People4Soil, set up by the Coordinating Committee International Voluntary Service's (CCISV), is collecting signatures for a manifesto on soil protection, Soil4Life. The manifesto urges leaders and local, national and international decision makers to take action to protect and enhance soil health. The Manifesto will be delivered to UNESCO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the EU in 2022. 

  • The EU Soil Observatory (EUSO), an organisation that will support the delivery of EU policies on soils, is looking for members for their Technical Working Groups. Do nominate yourself to become involved!

  • The Northern Ireland Environment Link outlines its vision for sustainable land management in its report Farming for the Future. The report calls for a post-Brexit vision where land is used and managed in a way that is good for people, nature and the climate. This will require public investment and political leadership, including paying for the delivery of ‘public goods’, which in terms of agriculture are: biodiversity, water, air and soil quality, and the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

  • With Cop26 in full swing, Indigenous communities seek to instill an attention to the relationship between people and land in Cop26 strategies. Listen to the different ways in which cultures express their intrinsic relationship to land here

 

Soil Mapping

 

Soil Research

 

  • This article presents a short overview of research done on desert plants’ genes profile. These plants are able to cope with the extreme dryness, high altitude, poor nutrient soil, and excessive radiation from the sun. They found symbiotic relations with bacteria for nitrogen intake.

  • At the University of Melbourne a group of scientists is conducting research on ways of reducing nitrogen pollution. They recommend looking at Production, People, Planet, Policy and Partnerships.

 

  • While soil continues to be relatively little discussed in social sciences, there is an interesting recent debate in human geography about sand. It starts from concerns about sand as a resource, and expands to call for a new understanding of materiality through sand - see this paper, and the following debates.

 

  • The huge role of funghi in soil health is starting to be appreciated, and scientifically explored. A new project, from the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN), will collect 10,000 samples around the world, from hotspots that are being identified through artificial intelligence technology.

  • While most soil history literature addresses failures of soil care, this excellent article analyses five historical strategies used by which European and North American farmers to maintain soil fertility over a long term.

 

  • There is an important strand of research emerging showing how claims to the knowledge of soil and land can be used to create exclusion. In India, Daniel Munster explores, soil life, fermentation, and native breeds of cows are being used to construct a political strategy of ‘bionativism’ - a nativism based on biological belonging - which strengthens nationalist sentiments. In Australia, Mardi Reardon-Smith writes, knowledge of the intricacies of the soil and land is used to negate land claims by Aboriginal inhabitants and National Park-led conservation policies. In Israel’s West Bank, Rafi Grosglik and others note, Jewish settler organic farmers use their relations with soil to make claims to land and reinforce colonial relations

 

 

  • Community researchers are looking into soil pollution with lead in the US. We need more engagement with community-led research to broaden the arena of soil knowledge

  • Soil is never ‘itself’, on its own - it interacts and works through other materials. This paper on floods in Indian Himalayas discusses how separating water and soil prevents effective policies from emerging

 

 

  • Electric cars are all very well, but one of the big sources of soil pollution are car tires. New research explores the toxicity of tire particles on soil nematodes, revealing that the toxic effects of microplastic particles will gradually increase with higher exposure time. 

  • This interesting editorial provides an overview of how widespread carbon farming has already become - and the huge role paid in it by Big Ag companies, with Bayer already collecting carbon credits from 1.5 million acres of land

 

  • If you are in the US, you can take part in a great Citizen Science initiative which collects soil samples to find new natural products from soil funghi

 

  • Soil science education should ensure that future researchers can meaningfully interact with holders of other forms of knowledge. This great paper from the University of Minnesota describes a soil science course which includes interaction with practitioners as the primary source of knowledge to as to develop students’ affective and reflexivity-oriented skills

  • While participatory research models such as Living Labs are increasingly called for, they remain rare. This paper reports the usefulness of involving farmers in creating a Visual Soil Assessment tool to the uptake of regenerative agriculture for soil protection in Spain