How can we reverse the damage we’ve done to our soil?

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38 min listen
AUTHOR: Matt Ridout

Global soils are the source of all life on land but their future looks bleak. Our soils are in crisis. Their health is declining to the extent that we are just one generation away from a soil system that is unable to meet the needs of the people that depend on it. We urgently need to find solutions to reverse the damage we’ve done to our soil in order to protect humanity in the future.

In this episode we’re joined by three experts in the field to find out the scale of the problem we face and what we need to do to reverse the damage we’ve done to our soil. Joining host Stefan Gates are Professor Chris Collins, Programme Coordinator, Soil Security Programme, Dr Felicity Crotty, Lecturer in Soil Science, Royal Agricultural University and Richard Bardgett, Professor of Ecology, The University of Manchester. Join the conversation on Table Talk.

About our panel

Richard Bardgett, Professor of Ecology, The University of Manchester

Richard Bardgett is British ecologist and Professor of Ecology at The University of Manchester. He graduated from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1987 with a degree in Soil and Land Resource Science, and then moved to Lancaster University, where he gained his PhD in 1991. He then held posts at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research and the Universities of Manchester and Lancaster, where he established the Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Group. Richard returned to The University of Manchester in 2013 where he is now Professor of Ecology. Until recenttly, he served as President of the British Ecological Society (2017-2019).

Professor Chris Collins, Programme Coordinator, Soil Security Programme

Chris is Chair of Environmental Chemistry at the University of Reading. He chairs the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee providing expert advice to the UK Government on how to protect the environment from chemicals. Chris was Natural Environment Research Council Soils Coordinator overseeing a multi-million pound research investment to improve our understanding of how soils resist, recover and adapt to land use and climate change. He was a member of the UK Natural Capital Committee 2018-2020. His research focuses on determining the factors controlling exposure of biota to environmental pollution.

Dr Felicity Crotty, Lecturer in Soil Science, Royal Agricultural University

Dr Felicity Crotty has been researching soil biology and soil health for the last twelve years. Felicity joined the Royal Agricultural University as a Lecturer in Soil Science and Ecology in 2018. She is a soil ecologist working with the aim of promoting soil health and sustainable agriculture and is particularly interested in investigating how agricultural management effects soil quality, focusing on soil biology (earthworms, springtails, mites and nematodes), physics (compaction and water infiltration) and chemistry (N, P, K and other nutrients). Through combining her expertise in all three areas of soil science she is trying to disentangle the real impact different management strategies have on soil health and farming sustainably. Felicity has current projects investigating the use of AI to identify earthworm casts, using sensors to detect earthworm movements in the field and monetising soil health. Felicity previously worked as the Soil Scientist at the Allerton Project (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) working on the Sustainable Intensification Research Platform (SIP), SoilCare project (EU Horizon 2020), and Soil Biology & Soil Health Partnership (AHDB). Prior to this, she was a Post-doc at Aberystwyth University working on the PROSOIL and SUREROOT projects; she spent a year as a Post-Doc in Canada at Dalhousie University (Halifax) and Saskatchewan University (Saskatoon), experimenting on the fungal feeding channel within the soil food web. She obtained her PhD at Rothamsted Research (North Wyke) investigating the passage of carbon and nitrogen through the soil food web.

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