Germany is blessed with many different types of soil. In the interest of shedding greater light on the world beneath our feet, each December 5th, on World Soil Day, the Soil of the Year is presented. A panel of experts selects the soil in question. In announcing the Soil of the Year, the panel indicatesamong other things its characteristics, origin and significance for today’s society. read more
Soil develops extremely slowly as the result of a millennial interplay between physical, chemical and biological processes. Climatic factors, soil organism mechanisms, and human use are the driving forces behind the gradual and extremely slow process whereby rock is transformed into soil: it takes between 100 and 300 years for one centimeter of fertile soil to develop.
Soil performs a whole host of functions. It forms the basis for the livelihood and habitats of humans, animals, plants and soil organisms. Soil is also the main component of terrestrial ecosystems and complex water and nutrient cycles. Soil filters and converts nutrients and other chemical substances, and in so doing in so doing protects groundwater resources, provides plants with nutrients, and affects the climate. In the soil, we can discern the history of nature and civilization. Residential and recreational areas, as well as industrial sites and infrastructure elements, are sited on open land and its attendant soil. What’s more, soil is the primary production factor of the forestry and agricultural sectors; and fertile soil forms the basis for our entire food chain.
If soil is indispensable for life on earth, careless use of this resource and underestimating its importance is an alarming development; for soils worldwide are under pressure. Substance loads and other pressures affect and impinge upon soil functions. Substance loads include atmospheric and agricultural nutrients and pollutants, as well as local contamination and pollution at abandoned sites. Substance loads can contribute to the presence of excessive soil nutrients and to soil and ecosystem acidification. Completely paving over open stretches of land results in the sealing and destruction of soil. Apart from this direct use of land and soil, non-substance loads also include wind and water erosion and soil compaction – all of which are primarily attributable to intensive farming. This constellation of pressures translates into a loss of soil fertility, and has a deleterious effect on soil functions as a whole. The rising temperatures and changes in precipitation associated with climate change also affect the soil and can potentially increase the risk for soils at innumerable sites. Agriculture plays two distinct roles in this regard. First, it is the largest land use factor in Germany and worldwide. Around half of Germany’s surface area is used for agricultural purposes; the figure worldwide is 38 percent. Hence the agricultural sector has a major role to play when it comes to protecting our soil, water, and air, as well as flora and fauna.
The state of agriculture is determined by the presence of intact environmental conditions. But, somewhat paradoxically, as agricultural activities often also cause environmental pollution, agriculture can be regarded as both a victim and perpetrator of pollution. One of the key management instruments in this domain is the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which sets down strategies for dealing with the environmental impact of farming. Hence green agriculture is indispensable, for it is the key to ensuring that future generations will have a stable basis for food production.
Picture-perfect fruit and vegetables are a burden on environment and climate
Strict requirements regarding the appearance and size of fruit and vegetables are a burden on the environment because this often requires the use of additional plant protection agents and fertilisers. It also causes unnecessary food losses. The consumer protection centres and UBA call on businesses to offer fruit and vegetables in all sizes and looks as standard. read more
Rise in use of problematic plant protection products
Sales volumes of plant protection products (pesticides) in the agricultural sector remain high, says data from the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). After a temporary decline in sales in 2018/2019, farmers demonstrated greater demand for specific problematic active substances, including insecticides that are dangerous to bees and herbicides critical to groundwater. read more
Environmental impact of milk production: pasture grazing beats indoor housing model
Organic milk production from cows that graze in pasture is more favourable for the environment. The main reason is how the feed is produced. These are the results of a study commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA) which analysed the environmental impact of various milk production systems in Germany and assessed their environmental cost. read more
CAP-Reform 2013: Limited environmental impact, high costs
In 2013, the Common Agricultural Policy was reformed with the aim of reducing negative environmental impacts of agriculture. Accordingly, farmers had to comply with certain environmentally friendly farming measures, the so-called "greening", to receive the EU subsidies. Despite high costs, however, the effects of the reform have remained small. This has been shown by a recent paper by UBA. read more
State of the environment 2020: German Environment Agency draws a mixed picture
The "Environmental Monitor" for 2020 from the German Environment Agency (UBA) draws a mixed picture of the condition of the environment in Germany. While there have been recent improvements in air quality or greenhouse gases, other indicators fare poorly. read more
30 years of unified Germany: a plus for the environment too
The German Environment Agency (UBA) reports positive environmental performance 30 years after German reunification. Air, water and soil much cleaner – climate change remains greatest challenge. read more
PFAS excessively high in blood of children and adolescents in Germany
Children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 17 in Germany have too many persistent chemicals from the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance group, or PFAS, in their blood. These are the findings of an evaluation of the representative German Environmental Survey for Children and Adolescents, GerES V. read more