News & Updates: Winter 2022

We hope you have enjoyed the autumn quarter despite the considerable disruption in the policy world. The impact of a dry summer on soil health and the UK’s food system has raised the public’s understanding of the link between soil health, climate change and their food, and a growing interest in soils from all sectors of society has again highlighted the need for coherent approaches to how we understand and look after our soils. We’re happy to be at the forefront of convening experts to work towards such a goal! 

As the year comes to an end, we thought we’d give you an overview of our main activities and achievements of this past year:

Click here for a full timeline our achievements in 2021

1. ELMs / SFI collaboration

Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), the first of England’s three Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) opened for applications in June this year, and although without a specific target for soil health, they sit within the suit of Defra initiatives designed to respond to the 25 Year Plan for the Environment’s goal of sustainably managed soils by 2030. Farmers are now able to apply to the Arable and Horticultural and the Improved Grassland soils standards with a payment per hectare in return for several actions related to soil health and sustainability including soil organic matter tests and winter cover. 

We are now working with Plymouth University on their Environmental Land Management Strategic Knowledge Exchange Hub (ELMs-Exchange), designed to kickstart collaborative research and innovation initiatives specifically designed to help Defra and farmers evaluate how the SFI and other ELM schemes will deliver for the environment and farm productivity.

We were delighted to facilitate an in-person, cross-sector workshop at the University of Plymouth in November to inform and develop these R&D collaborations. This brought together over 50 experts, policymakers and practitioners to discuss research needs, form collaborations and co-design specific projects to support both policy and practice. Read more about the day here

If you are interested in developing a small R&D project to either inform or evidence ELMs/SFI, pleases get in touch by emailing

2. UK Farm Soil Carbon Code

It has been a busy period for the SSA-led consortium that is developing minimum requirements for farm soil carbon projects, as part of the Environment Agency’s Natural Environment Readiness Investment Fund. 

Over the summer, the group held four separate workshops (two with businesses, one with policymakers from across the four nations and one public event) to gather views on the draft Report and Recommendations on Minimum Requirements for High Integrity Soil Carbon Markets in the UK. Accompanying guidance on the repot has been published alongside a press release, explanatory video and FAQ document. Meanwhile Professor Guy Ziv from the advisory board was interviewed on Farming Today describing the project

Read the full report here

The consortium is now turning its attention to next steps, identifying gaps in the marketplace that need filling in order for a robust, high integrity marketplace for a farm carbon code to exist. This includes the creation of a community code, a free to use, open access protocol for new entrance and smaller scale farm soil carbon projects.  

If you have not already registered for the UK Farm Soil Carbon Code (UKFSCC) Consortium updates (including workshop dates), you can do so here

3. Soil Health Industry Platform (SHIP)

We’re continuing our work with a wide range of major food and drinks businesses on the Soil Health Industry Platform (SHIP), that aims to address soil damage throughout the UK supply chain. Our newest member G’s Fresh joins Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Morrisons, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Yeo Valley, Arla, Nomad Foods, and PepsiCo in working towards aligning and amplifying efforts to improve soil health.  

Our latest workshop in October included guest organisations: the National Farmers Union (NFU), NIAB, the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Agribusiness Task Force and WWF. We focussed on two critical gaps that the businesses agree must be filled:  

1) Aligning businesses around a consistent approach to soil health assessment and monitoring of change. 

2) Creating awareness of the critical risks to soils under different management and in different places by farming practices – and the very real investment and support needed to mitigate these. 

Read more about the platform here

We are also in the process of drafting a commitment to soil health that SHIP businesses will be able to sign up to. 

The Platform was featured as a case study for industry collaboration in WWF's recent report What's in Store for the Planet: The Impact of the UK Shopping Basket on Climate and Nature 2022, which outlines the distance retailers must go to meet the target of halving the environmental impact of UK Baskets by 2030, and provides recommendations to help drive progress in the years ahead. 

For any businesses interested in being part of the Platform, please contact   

4. Soil Health Improvement Network (SHINe)

Building on the challenges set by the SHIP, the SSA are leading a consortium of research organisations and business with interests in soil health (ABACO, NIAB, SoilBenchmark, Anglian Water, P.E.S. Technologies, SRUC, the University of Plymouth, Yara, UKCEH, Agrii, Unilever, Dyson Farms, Crop Management and McCain) to bring together work on soil health for England’s agricultural soils within an agreed framework and information sharing platform: the Soil Health Improvement Network.   

We submitted a bid to the Farming Innovation Fund to catalyse the creation of the platform for adoption across the farming industry and through UK supply chains, with the aim of working towards common approaches and standards for soil health. SHINe will also build on pilot work by NIAB and ABACO to translate the paper-based Soil Health Scorecard developed for the AHDB into a digital solution.  

This collaboration is designed as a three-year project that will provide a space to bring together disparate approaches to soil health assessment by seeking agreement on the underlying framework for soil assessment, into which benchmarks and methodologies can be consistently applied.

  1. UK Soil Awareness Week

In the second week of October, under the umbrella of the collaborative public-facing initiative uksoils the SSA is part of, we organised the first ever UK Soil Awareness Week, aimed at kickstarting public understanding and appreciation of Soils. 

The week was built around 3 eye-catching, interactive and downloadable elements designed to inform and inspire curiosity about soils - a quiz about soils, a lexicon of key terms people need to understand soils and a series of tips that people can use to improve soils in their own homes, gardens and allotments. 

The week was a great success - highlights include UKSoils partner, Professor Bridget Emmett of UKCEH being interviewed on BBC World Business Report, which you can watch here, and endorsement from National Trust, Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall and several high profile accounts via social media.  

The Week was jointly funded jointly by the SSA, UKCEH's UKSCAPE project and the family of Robert Emmett, a supporter of women in science and engineering and a keen soil improver and composter. The plan is for the week to be repeated on a yearly basis, and we will be looking for funding and partners to support us - do let us know if you'd like to get involved. 


It’s no news that the last few months have been a turbulent time for the Westminster government, and as a result communication about most policy initiatives have been put on hold. Many of the details of Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) have been confirmed, but we’re still waiting to hear about further Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) standards, as well as concrete information on the higher two tiers (Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery), and the release of the Soil Health Action Plan (SHAPE). The new Defra secretary will have a lot on her plate but we’re looking forward to engaging with Thérèse Coffey and her ministers as much as possible in ensuring soils are on the agenda for future policy decisions. 

See our summary of the the policy background to ELM here

The SSA submitted evidence to Parliament's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) Call for Evidence - welcoming the early emphasis on soil and highlighting areas of concern. We also submitted our response to Scotland's call for evidence on the new agriculture bill: Delivering our Vision for Scottish Agriculture- Proposals for a new Agriculture Bill. Lastly, we're glad to hear the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into soil health next year.

Read our consultation responses here

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) theme for World Soil Day 2022 on 5th December was ‘soils, where food begins’. This was another chance for food businesses to highlight what they are doing for soil health within their supply chains. The UN will be highlighting the threat soil degradation represents for global food security and calling for actions. 

The British Scoiety of Soil Science published their soil policy report summary following the World Congress of Soil Science 2022. The SSA contributed to the recommendations for soils policy: on the need for consensus from the scientific community on how we classify our soils, on the protocols for monitoring them, and that everyone can access and make full use of this critical information.  


We are delighted to announce that the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation have awarded us a three-year grant to underpin our core costs. Their continued support allows us to raise soil’s political profile and convene experts to devise solutions to the complex technical, practical and legal challenges that need to be addressed to see our soils properly protected for generations to come. 

A huge thank you also to Yeo Valley for hosting us for a wonderful evening of fundraising in support of soil health in September. Over 100 guests joined us for a delicious meal from local producers, and we were delighted to hear from Sarah Langford, who presented her new book Rooted and shared with us her thoughts on the emerging challenges and opportunities for soil and soil-focussed agriculture. We’re incredibly grateful to the individuals and businesses who donated a fantastic array of prizes for the raffle and auction including two artworks from Edward Hutchison (see below), between which we raised over £20,000 that will contribute to the SSA’s core activities. Read more about the event here

Lastly, we are happy to welcome our new Reseach and Communications executive, Theo Heaton-Davies. Hello!

Lastly, we are happy to welcome our new Reseach and Communications executive, Theo Heaton-Davies. Hello!

We hope you enjoy the winter ahead, and we look forward to continuing building the soil momentum now firmly in place into the next year!

The SSA Team: Ellen, Matt, Anicée, Nev, Kevin, Robert, Theo and George.

To keep up to date with soil news from around the UK and further afield follow us on Twitter @soilsalliance and watch out for our Week in Soil update, published every Friday morning. Have some news or a soil-related event to share with our community? Email
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