Soil key battle ground for climate change and food security

Soil may not be a sexy subject and rarely gets the credit it deserves, but this week Defra published a plan recognising its importance in providing food security and the challenges it faces from industrial pollution and a changing climate.

Safeguarding our Soils acknowledges the stress on Britain’s soils from 200 years of intensive agriculture and industrialisation, and sets out how government plans to tackle issues such as erosion, loss of organic matter and nutrients and the pressure on existing land for building.

By 2050 the world will need to double current food production to feed a growing population, possible only with healthy soils.

Future sustainability of the UK’s food supply will depend on maintaining the natural resources, including soil, on which production depends.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: “Soil is one of the building blocks of life.

“Good quality soils are essential for a thriving farming industry, a sustainable food supply, and a healthy environment.

“Britain’s soils hold more carbon than all the trees in Europe’s forests – and their protection is critical if we are to successfully combat climate change.

“This is an important step in increasing the value we place on soil, and will safeguard this vital resource now and in the future.”

The strategy sets out how the government will:

  • Support farmers in managing agricultural soil, and address the threats to it;
  • Reduce the rate of loss of carbon in soil to tackle climate change, and use soil to help adapt to the impacts of climate change;
  • Provide a framework for action to protect peat habitats;
  • Protect soils in urban areas during development and construction;
  • Value soils in the planning system;
  • Prevent pollution of soils, and deal with the historic legacy of contaminated land.
  • Sam Bond

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