“Where’s the detail?” Government commitment to soil recovery is challenged by campaigners and experts.

Expert stakeholders have given a cautious welcome to the government’s ambition to achieve “sustainably managed soils” by 2030 but...

Expert stakeholders have given a cautious welcome to the government’s ambition to achieve “sustainably managed soils” by 2030 but challenged it to provide as a matter of urgency additional detail in terms of the legislation, incentives and investment in education, research and innovation needed to turn this ambition into a reality.

The 2030 target is contained within A Green Future, the government’s 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, the strategy document that was the subject of a debate held earlier today in Portcullis House hosted by the Sustainable Soils Alliance and DEFRA PPS and committed ambassador for soils in parliament, Rebecca Pow MP.

The event heard contributions from a broad range of experts from farming, industry, NGOs and academia as well as MPs and representatives from DEFRA.

The event was structured around eight specific policy asks developed by the Sustainable Soils Alliance which will help deliver the objective of restoring the nation’s soils to health within a generation. They include proposals for a robust regulatory framework to introduce monitoring and measurement of the country’s soil.

Quotes from the event:

  • Neville Fay, founder of the Sustainable Soils Alliance:

“We are facing a soil crisis.  UK soils have degraded.  In areas that face a declining tipping point this will have serious consequences for future generations.”

“Between 2.2 and 2.9 million tons of topsoil is eroded every year, washed into rivers and seas alongside their chemical inputs, with dangerous human and environmental consequences.”

“Soil, together with air and water, is a fundamental pillar of all life. However, we have standards for air and water and none for soil quality. And this needs urgent correction.”

  • Tony Juniper, Executive Director of Campaigns at WWF:

“The 25 Year Environment Plan promises a new land management scheme and the first ever policy on UK soils. As with all new policies, it must achieve the right blend of regulations and incentives, and be underpinned by robust enforcement in order to protect soils and tackle farm pollution.“

“Farmers who go above and beyond by greatly improving their soil health should be financially rewarded.”

  • Sir Tim Smit, Co-Founder of Eden Project:

“We stand at the edge of a magnificent opportunity to reimagine our future with a second Agricultural Revolution. If we fail to seize it history will not be kind on us.”

  • Caroline Lucas, Co-Leader of the Green Party:

“All farming and land uses must protect and enhance the soil, within a strict legislative framework that monitors progress so resources can be accurately directed at soil conservation and restoration on an ongoing basis.”

“We actively support measures to encourage organic farming too, and believe the 25 Year Environment Plan should set far reaching targets for the reduction of nitrogen fertilizer use, for improvements to soil organic matter and for the restoration and protection of lowland peat soils.”

“Our environment won’t be protected unless we tackle every aspect of soil health, as well as the role that soil plays when it comes to tackling climate change, reducing flooding and promoting wider biodiversity too.”

  • Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture, Soil Association

“Three practical ways for Government to demonstrate the commitment to soil health [in the 25 Year Environment Plan] would be to include soil organic matter in the new mandatory soil testing rules, fully recognise the contribution that more organic farming would make to agricultural soils, and ensure agroforestry becomes a mainstream farming practice across the UK.”

Ends.

Notes:

  • A Green Future, the government’s 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment can be found here.
  • The Sustainable Soils Alliance’s eight point Call to Action can be found here.  Its submission to the Environmental Audit Committee’s Inquiry into the 25 Year Plan can be found here.
  • The full event programme and list of speakers can be found here.