On 14th February 2018, Jane Mills attended a conference at the Soil Research Centre, Reading University, where she presented posters on the RECARE and SoilCare projects, on which she has been working.
During the conference, titled “Where for UK soil after Brexit?”, Judith Stuart, Policy lead for Soils at Defra, set out the Government’s vision for soils as described in the 25 Year Environment Plan. An ambitious target has been set to have all of England’s soils sustainably managed by 2030. The intention is to introduce a payment scheme to encourage farmers to achieve demonstrable changes in their soil health. However, as a first step, a simple and scientifically robust soil health index is required to be able to measures any changes in the soil. Liz Bowles from the Soil Association also presented her organisations vision for soils and expressed a need to look at the farm as a whole system and to support groups of farmers in working with researchers to find the best soil management practices for their farms.
The participants broke out into groups to discuss how best to achieve the vision for soils as set out in the 25 Year Environmental Plan. A key discussion point was whether payments to farmers should be process-based (i.e. based on management practices that are known to improve soils) or outcomes-based (i.e. based on measurable improvements in the soil). The outcomes of the discussion will form a response to the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the 25 Year Environment Plan.