The European Union’s New Soil Monitoring Law
Soil is a vital part of the Earth’s ecosystem. It provides a home to plants and animals, helps to regulate the water cycle and stores carbon. Soil is also a major source of food and fibre. Unfortunately, the soil is under threat. A tool developed by the European Union (EU) Soil Observatory found that 61% of EU soils are unhealthy. The most prominent types of soil degradation observed were the loss of soil organic carbon (53%), the loss of soil biodiversity (37%) and the risk of peatland degradation (30%). Major factors influencing soil degradation include soil erosion, loss of soil organic carbon, soil compaction, and soil pollution.
The European Commission has proposed the continent’s first soil law to address these issues and revive degraded soils across Europe. The Soil Monitoring law provides a legal framework to help Europe achieve healthy soils by 2050. The law requires that member states monitor the health of soils, fertilizer use and erosion. The law would also make sustainable soil management the norm in the EU. Member States will now be required to define which practices should be implemented by soil managers and which should be banned because they contribute to soil degradation.
Additionally, the Soil Monitoring Law requests that Member States identify potentially contaminated sites, investigate these sites and address unacceptable risks for human health and the environment. The Soil Monitoring Law is part of the EU Soil Strategy for 2030 which sets out a framework and concrete measures to protect and restore soils and ensure that these soils are used sustainably.
Within the Soil Strategy, it helps to ensure that all EU soil ecosystems are healthy and can provide their services to society. The Strategy ensures that soil pollution is reduced significantly to not harm people’s health or ecosystems. Furthermore, the Strategy ensures that soils are protected and managed sustainably and that restoring degraded soils is a common standard across the continent.
Farmers will take a number of specific actions under the EU Soil Monitoring Law, including:
- Monitoring soil health: Farmers will be required to regularly monitor soil health. This involves collecting data on the chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil.
- Minimizing soil disturbance: Farmers will be required to minimize soil disturbance. This means reducing the amount of tillage they do and using practices that help to protect the soil structure.
- Improving soil organic matter: Farmers will be required to improve their soil organic matter content. This can be done by adding organic matter to the soil, such as compost or manure.
- Reducing nutrient losses: Farmers will be required to reduce nutrient losses from their soils. This can be done by using nutrient-efficient fertilizers and by planting cover crops.
- Protecting soil from erosion: Farmers must protect their soils from erosion. This can be done by planting windbreaks and by using conservation tillage practices.
The EU Soil Strategy and the new Soil Monitoring Law will contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal, which is pushing Europe to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It plans for at least 55% less net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 than the 1990 levels. And the EU plans for 3 billion additional trees to be planted in the European Union by 2030.
The EU is working tirelessly to ensure that Europe is a clean and sustainable continent for everyone. Although the Soil Monitoring Law does not have any legally binding targets, it is an important way to show that they are committed to reducing soil degradation and the importance of agriculture for Europe and the rest of the world. This law could help absorb atmospheric carbon and ensure sustainable food production. It could also influence other countries to implement similar laws to help reduce soil degradation on a grander scale.