Urban soils underpin the potential for the production of both a fruit and vegetable or a biofuel crop. Research conducted by members of the MYHarvest team has recently demonstrated that these soils are of better quality that agricultural soils.
However, urban soils in greenspaces co-exist in our cities and towns with roads, industry and domestic housing. As a consequence, these soils can contain high levels of pollutants, for example heavy metals such as lead (which was historically used as a petrol additive), which can pose a risk to human health if they enter the food chain.
As part of the wider project we will also be seeking to understand the processes within soils that control the uptake of these pollutants into own-grown food crops. This, in combination with a soil sampling campaign across urban areas in the UK, will enable us to understand how heavy metal contamination in urban soils may limit the potential for use of existing greenspaces for own-grown food production.
Although those areas that may not be suitable for food production could potentially be used for the sustainable production of a woody biofuel. The focus of this research is to understand how to make our cities and towns more sustainable and resilient in the future and protect our vitally important greenspace resource.