It cited research by Cranfield University putting the total economic cost of soil degradation, including erosion, loss of organic matter and compaction, at £1.2bn, of which one-fifth is borne by farmers, with the rest externalised in increased flood risk and other costs to society.
In common with a separate report by the Environmental Audit Committee earlier this month (HW, 10 June), it said the growing of crops for energy production, particularly maize for anaerobic digestion, "causes significant damage to soils when inappropriately managed", adding: "This is a practice which urgently needs to be reviewed."
It said such concerns "can be extended to many other aspects of farming and land management", citing "inappropriate irrigation, short rotations, disruption of the nitrogen cycle, poor planning, overuse of heavy machinery, selecting the wrong land for certain crops" as contributing to the problems of soil erosion, compaction and loss of organic matter.
But the inquiry also heard "an array of good practice methods" from the NFU, Soil Association and Committee on Climate Change, among them cultivation of leguminous cover crops, rotations and buffer strips, all of which "should be encouraged by Government policy", it said.
It blamed the current predicament on "a lack of political will, regulatory structure and advisory services to encourage soil-positive farming", saying the current framework of national and EU regulations and incentives "does not go far enough".
The inquiry concluded: "Rather, a strategy which ties in prescriptions, incentives and a mechanism for knowledge transfer, which can easily be adapted to deal with conditions specific to different soils, would be effective," and urged EU measures to support agro-forestry, combining crops or livestock with trees, which "would do a great deal to increase the health and structure of the soil, and the biodiversity of the farm overall".
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, who led the inquiry panel, said: "Failure to tackle current problems will lead to catastrophic environmental, economic and social breakdown. Reversing the loss of soils, along with restoring knowledge and interest in soil, are essential first steps to sustainable food production."
Soil Association policy officer Georgia Farnworth said: "This most recent signal that MPs from all political parties are committed to the protection of our soils is hugely encouraging. Farmers need the right advice and best practice guidelines for improving soil organic matter and reversing the dramatic loss of agricultural soil that has devastated the nation in recent flooding."