George Eustice MP has recognised the vital importance of soil health and fertility, in a message delivered today to members of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements). Speaking via video, the Minister stated that soil health will sit at the heart of a future agricultural policy focused on environmental improvement.
Locking carbon, reducing ammonia emissions and making efficient use of manures were cited as some of the benefits of reviewing soil management. Inspired by the work of Sir Albert Howard, whose pioneering work in India led to the formation of the Soil Association, Eustice spoke of soil as a complex ecosystem in need of nurturing, as he discussed his hopes for a policy that takes lessons from the past whilst making use of modern technology.
The Minister also announced that DEFRA will be looking to the organic sector for knowledge and techniques that can inspire agricultural policy and influence a wider approach to soils.
Helen Browning, Soil Association CEO, said: “These are hugely welcomed comments, and demonstrate that the value of our soils, their health and critical importance to our environment, is being recognised at the highest levels. An acknowledgment of the need for soil protection, and in particular an acknowledgement of the lessons to be learned from organic practices, within agricultural policy is something we have worked hard to secure. We now know DEFRA is committed to addressing this, and we look forward to helping them build a robust and regenerative approach to soils going forward.”
The Soil Association is committed to increasing soil organic matter and has outlined a range of ways that agriculture can adapt and improve to protect soil health: from natural fertilisers and rotational cropping, to improved monitoring and methods to reduce compaction, reducing soil degradation and improving our soil management is vital. Nothing could be more important for sustaining healthy food production in the UK and globally, and our ability to tackle climate change.
Notes to editors
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IFOAM met today in Reading, at a conference exploring climate change. George Eustice MP spoke via pre-recorded video. The full video can be found online.