Harper Adams University: New Parliamentary paper draws upon academic’s research to raise awareness of global soil health

A new Parliamentary research paper examining soil health has drawn upon the work of a Harper Adams academic – who believes the degradation of our soil globally needs far greater public attention.

The research paper, published by POST, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, examines the restoration of agricultural soils, and can be read here.

As they worked to bring the paper together, the research team in Parliament spoke to a variety of academics, including Dr Simon Jeffery, Reader in Soil Ecology at Harper Adams, whose published work includes a paper which suggests new policy approaches for soil health.

Dr Jeffery talked about that paper – and more – in a telephone interview for the research paper, which was then used by researchers to develop their final publication.

He said: “The interview lasted a little over an hour and we discussed that paper, as well as the concept of soil health in general – how it can be measured and why it is important.

“We also discussed biochar, which is a charcoal like material that has the potential to increase carbon sequestered in soil, and our current level of scientific understanding of both that and soil health.”

Dr Jeffery is currently working on a range of research projects at Harper Adams, including into agri-food industry waste streams and a holistic approach to their use, food and feed safety in the circular economy, and a review of scientific literature examining energy transition in Europe for the European Commission.

He praised the POST report and the breadth of expertise drawn upon in its preparation, and added: “I got involved as soil degradation is one of the greatest threats of our age, right up there with climate change, and yet it is not talked about as much as it needs to be and general awareness of it as an issue remains low.

“It is also an area around which wild claims are often made in the media – a quick Google will show you that there are plenty of people who are convinced that biochar is going to save us all from climate change, for example.

“A lot of the claims made are not based on solid science – so, I wanted to be involved to make sure that the science came first and help ensure that any policy in this area is based on sound science.”

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