Whilst England celebrates winning the Women’s Euro final, you might be surprised to hear that the equivalent of 30 football pitches of healthy soil is lost every minute?

Soil is often overlooked in the fight to stop and reverse climate change. At first glance, there isn’t anything green about soil. Look across a large field recently ploughed by a farmer, and you’re likely to feel that you’re looking at nothing but a large patch of brown earth.

But incredibly, our soils are home to a quarter of the Earth’s species. And it is estimated that about 99% of the microorganisms found in soil are yet to be discovered. Yet, they all contribute to the maintenance of healthy soils and a balanced ecosystem. 

From the visible earthworm as it breaks the surface, through fungi that can spread for miles underground, and right down to the invisible bacteria that help decompose and convert organic matter into nutrients that feed other organisms, they are all at risk from the effects of poor soil management, including the use of pesticides. This is as important for those living and working in the city as it is for those in the countryside.

Many of us find it easier to agree on the need for managing soil where food is grown on farms and our allotments, but we often overlook the significance of soil when looking for solutions to climate change. 

Good, healthy soils can absorb and store water, making them a natural defence against flooding and drought. Furthermore, there is an estimated 10 billion tonnes of carbon stored in UK soils alone. Well maintained soils can capture carbon dioxide and store it, making them an essential resource in reducing harmful emissions. 

Knowing that the use of pesticides damages the health of soils by killing beneficial microorganisms and insects, Birmingham Friends of the Earth is calling on Birmingham City Council to produce and implement a no-pesticide strategy by 2025, which includes:

  1. A complete ban on the use of all pesticides including: herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
  2. Stop spraying weeds.
  3. Go organic with all seeds and bulbs.
  4. Use only peat-free compost.
  5. Use organic growing practices when caring for all council owned spaces.
  6. Ensuring that council owned spaces take into account all biodiversity.
  7. The strategy should engage at ward level during implementation and ensure it applies equally across all wards.

Written by Jolyon Walford, Nature Communications Volunteer