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LUNZ Soil Health and Carbon Dynamics Topic Advisory Group Workshop on Soil Monitoring Across the Four Nations 

5th February 2024

In February 2024 The Sustainable Soils Alliance in collaboration with the UK Centre for Hydrology and Ecology hosted a workshop to identify, map and evaluate readiness of soil-assessment-focussed research for policy delivery taking place across the UK, as part of the LUNZ Soil Health and Carbon Dynamics Topic Advisory Group (TAG). 

The objectives were to build greater understanding of the detail behind current and planned soil monitoring activities by UK government departments, and lay the groundwork for a roadmap towards harmonisation of frameworks, methods and protocols.

The workshop was attended by two groups of stakeholders: policymakers in the soil and land use departments of each of the four devolved administrations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) who have developed (or are developing) soil monitoring programmes, and the suppliers of these programmes who worked on (or are working on) the technical detail.

Much of the discussion focussed on analysis of a spreadsheet compiled in advance of the workshop, that compared side-by-side 15 national soil monitoring schemes. This included background context such as the driving policy objective, and extensive detail on the technical methodology of each scheme. 

A number of technical points stood out in comparing the schemes, and discussion followed on the relative merits of different practices. The diverse risks faced by each devolved administration was noted as a particularly important factor in approaching monitoring. 

A key recurring theme was the potential value of data emerging from the range of public and private soil monitoring schemes in development (From sustainable farming incentives to farm carbon calculators), and this will guide the next two workshops on farmer-led soil data collection.