CCRI has welcomed the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report into Soil Health, published on 2nd June, which states that soil is often overlooked as an essential component to human life.
“Soil, water and air are all essential to human life and society—but of these three, soil is often the forgotten component. Yet soil is crucial to agricultural production, climate change mitigation and adaptation, urban development and flood risk management”, said the report.
Concern for our soil has been a preoccupation of CCRI researchers for a number of years and we have been working with researchers across Europe to find ways to address the soil degradation issues raised in the report. Within the EU-funded RECARE project, we are currently working with 28 different organisations to find and promote solutions to a range of soils threats, including soil erosion, loss of soil organic matter, soil sealing and soil contamination. Within the UK we are working with researchers at the University of Reading who are looking specifically at solutions to the decline in soil biodiversity.
The House of Commons report highlights the threat to agricultural productivity and food security from soil degradation. This is an issue that CCRI is addressing in another EU-funded project called SoilCare. Working with scientists and farmers in 18 different European countries, the 5 year project aims to test and promote the widespread adoption of soil-improving cropping systems that benefit both the soil and agricultural productivity.
The soil’s function as a carbon sink, storing three times as much carbon as the atmosphere, was highlighted in the report. CCRI was involved in another EU-funded project, SmartSoil, completed in October 2015, which aimed to identify beneficial soil carbon management practices. A major output of the project was an innovative ‘Toolbox’, aimed to help farmers achieve a good balance between crop productivity, soil health and soil carbon storage.
A major recommendation of the House of Commons report is that in its upcoming 25 year plan, the Government should place soil at the heart of environmental policy. To assist with this plan CCRI will continue to research new solutions and identify opportunities to halt the degradation of our soils and to promote the importance of healthy soil to a wide audience.