20 Mar 2018
Farmers will be given targets to improve soil quality in the UK by 2030, a new bill will propose.
The new measures will be the first time ministers have acted to preserve soil health and reverse damage from decades of intensive agriculture amid concerns for the UK’s farming land. More details are to follow as the bill is expected to reach Parliament later this year.
At the launch of the Sustainable Soils Alliance last year, Environment Secretary Michael Gove warned the UK was 30-40 years away from ‘the fundamental eradication of soil fertility’ in areas of the country essential to the UK’s farming industry.
The new bill will be aligned with the goals and initiatives laid out by the government’s 25-Year Environment Plan.
Speaking to The Guardian about the upcoming bill, Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Environment Ministers, said: ‘Healthy soil is essential, and there are ways of measuring it, such as the organic matter in the soil.
‘Farmers can be given incentives to improve soil management, such as by crop rotation. It has taken a long time but I think we have turned the corner on getting soil on the political agenda.’
Research published in 2014 warned that the UK only had 100 harvests left due to the damage to soil caused by intensive agriculture.
The study was led by Nigel Dunnett at the University of Sheffield, who said: ‘With a growing population to feed, and the nutrients in our soil in sharp decline, we may soon see an agricultural crisis.
‘Meanwhile we are also seeing a sharp decrease in biodiversity in the UK, which has a disastrous knock-on effect on our wildlife.’ Dunnett called for more use of urban spaces in food production.
The topic of intensive agriculture will be covered by Dr Alastair Leake, Director of the Allerton Project, at his upcoming Public Evening Lecture on Wednesday 28 March 2018, held at SCI HQ, Belgravia, London.
He will discuss how the Allerton Project is working to find the balance between feeding the growing global population while maintaining natural habitats and encouraging biodiversity.
By Georgina Hines