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The fortnightly News Alert forms the cornerstone of the Science for Environment Policy service.

Closing the loop on critical materials for renewable energy tech: 10 key factors

Full details of the research paper that each article is based on are provided, along with contact details for the lead author of the original study, should subscribers wish to find out more.

Latest Alert

Issue 519


Closing the loop on critical materials for renewable energy tech: 10 key factors

A new study lists 10 factors to help create a closed-loop supply chain for critical materials. However, interviews with key actors in supply chains for photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind turbines suggest that manufacturers and recyclers hold different perspectives on these factors. The research highlights the importance of cooperation between supply-chain actors, as well as investment in technologies and infrastructure for closed-loop supply chains.

Soil moisture stress on plants leads to uncertainty in carbon cycle estimates

This study paves the way for better projections of the impact of climate change on plants, including agricultural crops and carbon drawdown. The research shows how an equation used in climate models to represent soil moisture levels is responsible for major variations in estimates of the carbon cycle.

No-tillage systems linked to reduced soil N2O emissions in Mediterranean agroecosystems

Most emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) are linked to the use of nitrogen (N) fertiliser in agriculture, highlighting a need for agricultural management practices that reduce emissions while maintaining agronomic productivity. A new study has assessed the long-term impact of conventional tillage (CT — where soil is prepared for agriculture via mechanical agitation) and no-tillage (NT) systems on soil N2O emissions and crop productivity in rain-fed Mediterranean conditions. The findings show that, over a period of 18 years, mean yield-scaled (i.e. per unit grain yield) soil N2O emissions (YSNE) were 2.8 to 3.3 times lower under NT than CT. The researchers therefore recommend NT as a suitable strategy by which to balance agricultural productivity with lower soil N2O emissions in rain-fed Mediterranean agroecosystems.

Grazing cows may pick up persistent organic pollutants from soil or surroundings

Soil is an overlooked source of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) for grazing cows, finds a new study of contaminated farms in Switzerland. The researchers tested a new modelling tool to track two specific environmental POPs — known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins (PCDD/Fs) — as they moved from the farm environment into a cow’s body over time. The tool could be used to assess measures designed to decontaminate animals or to prevent contamination, such as grazing regimes that aim to reduce the risk of cows eating soil accidentally.

How to improve agricultural soil quality: add compost, don’t till, and rotate crops

Adding compost, manure, and other forms of organic matter to farmland soil can boost earthworm numbers, crop yield, and the stability of soil, finds a recent analysis of long-term case studies. No-tillage and crop-rotation practices also have positive effects on soil, although no-tillage's benefits for earthworms are often absent on farms that use herbicides and other pesticides. The study also confirms that organic farming typically produces lower crop yields than conventional farming, but provides recommendations on how to reduce this ‘yield gap’, while highlighting positive aspects of organic agriculture.