The impacts of plastic debris on soil health are largely unknown despite equal, or possibly greater, amounts of plastics entering soils as are reaching our rivers, seas, and oceans. MINAGRIS, an EU-funded project launched in September, will explore how plastic debris is affecting soil biodiversity, soil functions, related ecosystem services, and agricultural productivity.
Plastic has many uses in agriculture. For example, mulches used for weed control often contain plastic, as do tractor tyres and some agrichemicals. However, the impacts of the resulting plastic debris left in the soil are little known, particularly when combined with other contaminants such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals.
MINAGRIS (‘MIcro- and Nano-plastics in AGRIcultural Soils’) will examine the impacts of plastics on soil health by undertaking experiments in 11 case studies across Europe, including one in the Netherlands working alongside stakeholders across the agricultural community. Once the impacts of plastics on soil health are established, the project will then provide farmers and other stakeholders with tools and guidance on how to assess their exposure and help them to transition away from using plastic-based products.
Wageningen University & Research is the coordinator of the MINAGRIS project in which 20 other research organisations in Europe participate. WU is also responsible for maintaining contacts with various stakeholders, performing soil biodiversity studies, chemical risk assessment tasks, and mapping the transport routes of microplastics in the soil and their effects.
Project coordinator Professor Violette Geissen of Wageningen University & Research: “MINAGRIS is a challenging and urgently needed initiative aiming at assessing and better understanding plastic residue pollution of European agricultural soils and the related impacts on soil and crop health. At the end, evidence-based recommendations will be provided to farmers for improved soil and crop management to remediate and prevent further pollution by plastic residues in soils.”