Threat to UK soils "urgent and serious", says former farming minister

Former farming minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben, has told a parliamentary inquiry that the threat to Britain's soils is "urgent and serious, and the evidence is that it will become even more so", and described the Government's response to the problem as "not enough".

Image: Alternative Heat
Image: Alternative Heat

Deben, now chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said the committee believed growing crops for biomass "is not of itself sustainable in large measure", and that much of it "has no carbon saving at all".

Maize, now widely grown for anaerobic digestion, and criticised for its impact on soil structure, "can be grown badly and in the wrong places", he added, and criticised inadequate soil protection measures under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

Cranfield University emeritus professor of soil science Mark Kibblewhite told the inquiry the 2 million tonnes of topsoil lost each year to erosion costs England and Wales £1.2 billion, including £200m in increased flood risks.

The inquiry, set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology, will conclude in January, when the group will then publish recommendations for government action to safeguard soils.


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