With industry-wide backing, a new initiative is bringing together scientists, academics, farm advisers and farming bodies to better understand and improve the health of UK soils.
The new body is being formed as a direct response to Defra’s 25-year environmental plan which suggested ‘all England’s soils should be managed sustainably by 2030, supporting profitable and productive farming, and underpinning targets for clean water and air’.
Dr Alistair Leake, director of policy at the Allerton Project welcomes the Government’s commitment to focusing on soil health. Speaking at Cereals, he said: “In this country we have had the soil protection review and the introduction of soil management plans - neither of which have given us anything strategically useful.
“I am very pleased that Defra have picked up in their 25-year environment plan that soil health is something we should be focusing on.”
He suggested soil organic matter was a key indicator that industry should use to measure soil health. “I think we could devise a system that looks at the use of inputs which deliver an organic matter boost, such as green manures, cover crops, digestate, straw and grass leys.
“In using these kinds of inputs we would end up with soils that are much healthier, more resilient to climate change, have greater biodiversity and are able to sequester more carbon – all these things are public goods. I think the industry could argue a case with Defra that such a system should be funded out of the public purse going forward,” said Dr Leake.