Quality of soil, quality of food, quality of life

This theme brings together natural sciences whose work focuses on the measurement of qualities in soils, plants and foods, and social scientists who examine the politics of measurement, valuation, and qualification.

In the following themes, we engage with four key questions: how do we measure quality; how do we value quality; how do we maintain quality; how do we manage trade-offs between qualities.

Measuring and valuing soil qualities

Our research seeks to understand what qualities are needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of soils. Land managers utilise both scientific and non-scientific forms of qualifying soils in understanding and justifying their soil management practices. Our work uncovers the uses of various forms of soil valuation in real-life settings, and their relevance in the context of changing farming practice. It further asks political questions about the ‘usefulness’ and uses of soil qualification and measurement, attending to the relationship between what is being qualified, who is doing the qualifying, and the performative consequences of these processes.

Connecting qualities of soils and qualities of food

In modern farming systems falling soil quality and falling nutritional quality of foods go hand in hand. Our research explores how crops and soils can be reconnected to enhance both soil quality and nutritional quality of foods, whilst supporting sustainable consumption and production practices.

Connecting soil qualities and quality of life

Soil qualities can be changed through land management practices. However, the exact impacts of land management practices on soil qualities are poorly understood. Our research addresses this important gap, exploring the relationship between human and ecological well-being and land use diversification.

Understanding and managing the trade-offs between qualities from farm to fork

We are exploring how valuation of soil qualities can be embedded throughout the agri-food systems. We do this by exploring the role played by knowledge systems and practices, financial signals, certification, and other processes in agri-food systems. We further explore what changes in practice and at system-level may be needed to manage trade-offs between qualities within food systems more effectively.