Government responds to soil report

Theresa May’s Government has responded to a ground-breaking, all-party parliamentary report on soil health, acknowledging that the current approach to soil management must change if the UK is to have any success in improving soil quality and mitigating climate change.

Three specific areas the Soil Association has campaigned for were addressed by the Government in their response to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)’s report on soil health, which was published in June. These are the need for a clear target for increasing soil organic matter, protecting lowland peat, and ending the destructive effects of maize. We take a look at each of the issues, and what the Government had to say about them.

Soil Organic Matter

The issue: The Soil Association has campaigned for years on the benefits of healthy soil. By increasing soil organic matter content soil-friendly farming could be playing a major role in reducing the dangers of climate change by storing carbon in healthy soils, and higher levels of soil organic matter help fight floods and droughts by letting soils act like sponges, soaking up water at times of floods, and releasing it slowly when water is short. Yet the UK has depleted soil organic matter, and non-organic farming is either making things worse, or at best failing to put things right.  

The Government’s response: The Government agree with the Soil Association and the EAC that Soil Organic Matter (SOM) has an ‘extremely important role to play’ and that we can benefit from managing soils better. The Government has said they are committed to investigating ways to increase SOM, and that permanent land use change from cropland to grassland or forestry can offer the some of the greatest potential to store carbon.

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