Strategy aims to stop carbon loss from soil

Soil experts are being asked for their views on a new strategy to protect England's soils for the future.

Defra has published a consultation on the Soil Strategy, which includes an aim to halt the loss of carbon from soil.

Soils contain huge amounts of carbon and there is some evidence to suggest that carbon levels are declining in some soils, resulting in the release of CO2 into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

Ministers said the strategy will also support food and fibre production, especially given the need for climate change adaptation, and will ensure that planners and the construction industry consider soils in developments.

Another key aim of the policy will be to ensure soil protection is considered when encouraging the recycling of organic materials such as compost and manures to land.

"Soil is a vital natural resource and the protection of our soils is essential for the future of our ecosystems, for farming and food production, and for reducing our CO2 emissions," said Jonathan Shaw, minister for marine, landscape and rural affairs.

"We are seeking views on how we will continue to protect this vital resource in years to come."

Robin Maynard, campaigns director for the Soil Association, said organic matter and mineral levels in soil had plummeted over the last 60 years - a situation which will become worse with climate change - and the strategy should address this problem.

He told edie: "Long-term scientific studies show that organic farming methods protect soil structure and build resilience.

"The consequent increase in organic matter also locks-away greater amounts of carbon helping curb climate change.

"If the Government is serious about delivering a sustainable soil strategy, then organic farming methods should be at its heart."

The draft Soil Strategy builds on Defra's Soil Action Plan, which was published in 2004.

Defra is working with the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who are developing their own soils policies.

The deadline for responses is June 23. The draft strategy and consultation documents can be found here.

Kate Martin



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