New market planned to pay farmers for soil carbon, water quality

General Mills, ADM, Cargill, McDonalds, and The Nature Conservancy are among 10 companies and nonprofit organizations that are forming a national market by 2022 to incentivize the adoption of farming practices that build soil carbon and improve water conservation.

Where Trump would cut, Walz would boost land stewardship

The two largest U.S. soil, water and wildlife conservation programs aimed at working lands are targeted for enhancements in legislation sponsored by Minnesota Representative Tim Walz, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee.

16 percent of global population dies early because of pollution

Nine million people died prematurely in 2015 because of air, water and soil pollution — three times the number that died of tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria combined, says a study published in The Lancet. The exact cause of death ranged from lung cancer to heart disease, but the total amounted to 16 percent of all deaths globally.

Researchers develop bananas resistant to monster fungus

Researchers have developed the first genetically modified version of a Cavendish banana that is resistant to the devastating soil-borne fungus known as Panama disease. The fungus, or Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4), can stay in the soil for 40 years and doesn’t respond to chemical sprays. It has destroyed Cavendish — the main commercial banana variety — plantations around the world, and is fast spreading across Asia.

UN: A third of Earth’s land is damaged, largely from industrial agriculture

A third of the Earth’s land is severely degraded and 24 billion tons of fertile soil are disappearing each year, according to a new United Nations-backed study that puts the majority of the blame on intensive agriculture. “The Global Land Outlook is billed as the most comprehensive study of its type, mapping the interlinked impacts of urbanisation, climate change, erosion and forest loss," reports The Guardian.  "But the biggest factor is the expansion of industrial farming.”

China faces widespread soil pollution from plastic mulch

To boost food production, China has spread polyethylene film across 49 million acres — 12 percent of the country’s total farmland — despite warnings that the synthetic mulch is toxic and degrades the soil.

California gets in the dirt to fight climate change

Starting this summer, the state of California will pay farmers to return nutrients to their soil that were lost to monocultures and tillage. The first of its kind in the country, California’s Healthy Soils Initiative will give growers grants to add “compost on rangelands or [seed] fields between harvests with so-called cover crops such as grasses and mustards, which add organic matter to the soil,” says The New York Times.

Soils called crucial to combating climate change

As the Trump administration teeters on the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, around 200 scientists, climate activists, farmers, and NGO representatives from around the world convened earlier this month to focus on how to bring soil carbon sequestration to scale—and fast.

USDA panel doesn’t resolve if soil needed to grow organic food

A USDA task force set out to determine in September 2015 whether fruit and vegetables are ‘organic’ if they’re grown in a medium other than soil. More than 10 months later, they issued a report that is “anything but conclusive,” writes Civil Eats.

Groundwater feeds more than half of river flow in the West

More than half the flow of rivers in the upper Colorado Basin is derived from groundwater, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Society. The study's authors hope it will compel state water managers to ask important questions, since rivers are a key source of irrigation and drinking water across the west. For instance, should a farmer’s use of a nearby river be limited if he or she is also pumping large amounts of groundwater?