UK must invest in soil to ensure the future of sustainable food production

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Soil health is the cornerstone of sustainable food production, according to the NFU
Soil health is the cornerstone of sustainable food production, according to the NFU

Related tags: Environment

Investing in the health of the nation’s soil is a key cornerstone to help the UK ensure the future of sustainable food production, meet its ambitious net zero commitments and deliver for the environment, a new report from the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) has said.

The farming organisation published its Foundation of Food​ report said that good soil health is crucial to the nation’s farming systems and British food production. It also explained the benefits healthy soil delivers in reducing flood risk, supporting wildlife habitats and biodiversity, and the sequestration and storage of carbon.

The report said that healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production with soil is required for 95% of global food production. However, in 2021, the UK’s overall food self-sufficiency was 60%. 

Lead the way

The NFU said that the right environment needs to be provided for farmers and growers to increase food security, not just for the UK’s own food supply but also to help “lead the way” on the global challenge of food security for a growing population. 

The NFU also called for grant schemes that encourage uptake of technology to boost productivity through reduced soil compaction and erosion.

The report welcomed the focus on soil health in Defra’s first Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM), the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). This is already available to farmers and aligns with the report’s findings for incentives to maintain and conserve soil structure. 

Reward farmers

NFU vice president David Exwood said: “Farmers are in the best position to continue work to support soil health and ensure it for the future. The importance of healthy soils to everyone cannot be underestimated. It underpins our productive farming systems, and delivers huge benefits for the environment, the farmed landscape and offers resilience to climate change.

“The new ELM scheme being rolled out includes soil. It now needs to evolve and address areas like nutrient management. It’s also vital new payment schemes fairly reward farmers for these public goods and enable them to enhance this vital work.”

Related topics: Environment

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