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14 April 2023

A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) highlighted there has been limited action taken in the UK to tackle agricultural microplastic contamination of soils. The report calls for urgent action to reduce the use of plastic in agriculture. The EIA advocates for plastic-free farming practices to protect soil health and ensure a sustainable food supply for future generations, with action needed be taken by both farmers and supermarkets.

Thousands of Environment Agency workers are set to strike for four days due to a long-standing pay dispute, leading to concerns about flood protection and soil health. The workers, including flood prevention and river maintenance staff, have been demanding a 2% pay increase for several months. The strike action could disrupt the Agency's efforts to manage flood risks and soil erosion, resulting in potential environmental and economic damage.

A recent survey by NRM Laboratories revealed two-thirds of UK soils are deficient in key nutrients, affecting soil health and crop productivity. The study showed that soils were low in magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, all of which are essential for healthy plant growth. The results highlight the need for increased investment and sustainable farming practices to improve soil health and ensure long-term food security.

BBC Radio 4 Farming Today took a look at debates around maize production in the UK, including its impacts on soil health. The Sustainable Soils Alliance’s Executive Co-director, Matthew Orman, highlighted how its cultivation results in soil compaction, soil erosion and runoff, which also has a negative impact on waterways and flooding protection. 

Defra and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have recently announced a programme, Potato-LITE, to develop novel machinery and cultivation practices for UK potato production. It is part of the Farming Innovation Programme and will be a multi-million pound project that will support improvements to soil health and minimise tillage intensity. 

Two comparative soil contamination assessments in Sweden and Germany, indicate there is need for more objective measures in Sweden. The study suggests that current risk assessment methods may not be adequately protecting human health and the environment. It calls for more research to improve the accuracy of risk assessments and the effectiveness of remediation efforts.

Scientists have developed a new method for measuring soil biodiversity using eco-acoustics. Eco-acoustics is the study of environmental sounds, and uses recordings of soil organisms to assess soil biodiversity and ecological health. The researchers believe that this method can provide a more accurate and efficient way to assess soil health and biodiversity compared to traditional methods.

An art exhibition celebrating soils is currently open in Edinburgh as part of its Science Festival. The exhibition, Living Soil, has been created by artist Natalie Taylor and uses paintings, photographs and workshops to explore our relationship with soil. It is open until Sunday 16th April.