Better soil health will aid growers, says group

The Soil Association has published a new guide to help growers improve soil health, which the association says will bring commercial as well as environmental benefits.

Field health: crop rotations will improve quality of soil - image: Alison Benbow
Field health: crop rotations will improve quality of soil - image: Alison Benbow

Available for free download from the organic body's website, Seven Ways to Save our Soils outlines measures to help meet its target of increasing soil organic matter in UK arable and horticultural soils by 20 per cent over the next 20 years.

These are: increasing the amount of plant and animal matter going back onto fields; improving soil health monitoring; encouraging soil organisms; covering up bare soil with continuous plant cover; bringing more trees onto farmland; reducing soil compaction; and introducing crop rotations to improve soil health.

Soil Association head of farming Liz Bowles said: "Unintended consequences of current soil management practice have led to the perilous state of UK soils today," adding that even conventional growers stand to gain from reduced input costs and more resilient land by adopting the measures.

The association is also calling on the government to commit to the 20 per cent target by incentivising practices that promote healthy soils and funding research into knowledge gaps.

Meanwhile, the Soil Association's certification arm is also developing a sustainable catering standard in partnership with the Carbon Trust.

The association's current widely-used Food for Life Catering Mark covers food provenance and supply chain issues, whereas the new standard looks at waste, energy and water use in food production, also providing recognition of businesses' environmental sustainability.

This new scheme is claimed to be the first to provide a single verification scheme matching all areas of Defra's Balanced Scorecard for public food procurement. Its developer, Dr Peter Bonfield, said: "This is an exciting opportunity to inspire businesses and caterers to improve their environmental performance and show a clear commitment to buying fresh, healthy, locally sourced, sustainable food and champion British producers via the Red Tractor scheme."

In Scotland, a five-year "organic vision" has been published for the country's food and farming sector. Organic Ambitions: Scotland's Organic Action Plan 2016-2020 was launched in the Scottish Parliament on 28 January.

The plan's main strands are increasing recognition of the economic, environmental and social value of Scottish organic produce, increasing the resilience of the supply chain and boosting skills.

Attending the launch, Scotland's secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment Richard Lochhead MSP said: "I want to see a strong organic sector in Scotland, one that is strategically supported and that can compete with the rest of the UK, EU and, indeed, the world."

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Dutch vegetable open days

Dutch vegetable open days

Brassicas, squashes, salads, roots and alliums were all on show as growers, advisers, agents and buyers visited the main seed breeders' sites, Gavin McEwan reports.

A growing choice - the industry assesses alternatives to peat

A growing choice - the industry assesses alternatives to peat

Industry efforts to reduce peat continue as coir suppliers invest in continuous supply and growers take part in trials to assess alternatives, Gavin McEwan reports.

National Fruit Show 2016 - Business post-Brexit to be a key talking point

National Fruit Show 2016 - Business post-Brexit to be a key talking point

The post-Brexit political and regulatory landscape will be the subject of much attention from growers at this year's event.