July 2023 saw the publication of the long-awaited proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and Council on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (‘Soil Monitoring Law’). The proposed legislation creates opportunities for plant biostimulants, which are known to contribute to soil health by enhancing biodiversity, reducing nutrient losses and improving soil structure.
What does the new soil health law include?
The ultimate objective of the proposed Directive is to have all EU soils in healthy condition by 2050, in line with the EU Zero Pollution ambition. To achieve this, the Directive provides a harmonised definition of soil health, puts in place a comprehensive and coherent monitoring framework and lays down rules on sustainable soil management and remediation of contaminated sites.
Member States will be asked to first monitor and then assess the health of all soils in their territory, collecting data for EU-wide analysis. The Directive will then be updated within the next six years to set more specific, mandatory requirements to ensure the regeneration of unhealthy soils. The aim is that all soils in the EU will be considered healthy by 2050. Potential measures include a range of technological and organisational solutions to manage soils, including crop diversification, precision farming, , digitised soil management tools and others. As biostimulants contribute strongly to improving soil health, it is hoped that landowners and managers will be encouraged to include them in their soil regeneration plans.
The new legislation is designed to enable farmers and other landowners to implement the most appropriate treatment methods and will assist them in maintaining and increasing soil fertility and yields, while minimising water and nutrient consumption. In addition, the soil data collected will allow enhanced analysis of trends on droughts, water retention and erosion, enhancing disaster prevention and management.
How do plant biostimulants contribute to soil health?
There are a range of different biostimulant technologies, many of which have a positive influence on soil heath. Some biostimulant products enhance soil biodiversity directly by adding beneficial micro-organisms to the soil environment.
Many plant biostimulants increase root biomass in crops, in turn strengthening the carbon content of soils. Better rooting improves the aeration and drainage of soils, as well as enabling increased water retention, leading to improvements in soil structure. This is important for soil biology as well as for reducing erosion and nutrient run off.
One of the most important benefits of plant biostimulants is their impact on the nutrient use efficiency of crops. By increasing nutrient use efficiency, plant biostimulants reduce reliance on crop inputs and applied fertilisers, whilst also reducing nutrient losses.
Finally, plant biostimulants increase crop tolerance to abiotic stresses, such as drought, heat and cold. Improving the climate resilience of crops will reduce the pressure on agricultural soils in the long term, as well as reducing soil erosion, desertification and land degradation.
When will the new Soil Health Directive become law?
The proposal for the new Directive is open for public feedback until 24th September 2023. It is likely that the Directive will be adopted by the European Parliament and Council in the first quarter of 2024. The Directive would then need to be transposed into national legislation by all EU Member States within the following two years.
EBIC is following the decision-making process on this dossier closely and engaging with relevant stakeholders and policymakers to ensure that the role played by plant biostimulants is recognised. Our Farm to Fork project team is developing a position which will be published shortly.
Read the proposal for the Directive and its annexes here.
Provide your feedback on the proposal here.