Intensive farming harms UK soil health – Environment Agency

FOUR MILLION hectares of soil are at risk of compaction due to intensive farming practices in England and Wales, according to a new report from the Environment Agency.

Arable soils have lost 40-60% of their organic carbon and there is growing concern that soil management is being overlooked in environmental policy debates.

In light of the climate change goals facing the farming community, the Soil Association said better soil management is needed to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, restore lost biodiversity and improve soil health in order to sustainably feed a growing population. .

SA Associate Director for Agriculture and Land Use, Liz Bowles, commented: “This report is yet another alarming warning that we need to change the way we manage soils and we cannot continue to ignore it. ‘impact of many current agricultural practices on our soils. Soils contain three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and all life depends on it – protecting and restoring it is essential for climate resilience and food security. ”

The report found that more than two million hectares of soil are at risk of erosion – and that land degradation was calculated in 2010 to cost £ 1.2 billion each year.

“We urgently need connected food and agriculture policies that help farmers adopt nature-friendly agroecological farming systems, such as organic systems, which prioritize natural systems and chemicals last.” , continued Ms. Bowles. “Research has shown that this type of agriculture holds the answer to restoring biodiversity and soil, halving greenhouse gas emissions, while being able to feed a growing European population with healthy food. We call on the government to prioritize soil health and agroecology in future agriculture and environment bills.

The report also suggests that new pesticides that have been developed to reduce the amounts needed are having negative consequences on soil organisms. There have been significant reductions in the area of ​​orchards, natural grasslands and wetlands which provide habitat for rare species but are now being converted to intensive agriculture and under pressure from land use planning. In order to improve soil and water quality, the report highlights the need to increase tree planting, peatland restoration and a change in agricultural practices.

SA Scotland Deputy Director David Michie explained the situation north of the border: “Most Scottish soils are good – our climate, soil type and crops mean there is little depletion in the country. most of Scotland. the east coast (ie Fife, East Lothian) which deplete soil organic matter. ”

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