Protecting our soils

Soils are essential to farming. Soil erosion and loss of nutrients are bad for farmers and our rivers where it all ends up. So what can we do about it?

Why save our soils?

Soil loss is negatively impacting on local watercourses. Recent estimates by Cranfield Soil scientists show soil degradation costing the UK £900m to £1.4m per year.

As well as the financial cost, our wildlife is at risk as fish spawning grounds are lost to silt building up and feeding becomes harder as visibility is reduced. Too many nutrients promotes over zealous aquatic plant growth, which leads to streams and rivers becoming choked up.

Soil erosion also has a part to play in flooding in some areas.

What's being done?

Soil regulation is changing to address the threat of soil loss to our food security and support the rising awareness of the importance of integrating environmental considerations indivisibly within the long term farm business planning.

Recent introductions of new Countryside Stewardship schemes and regulations will see Soil Protection Reviews [SPR] being replaced by three new Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions [GAEC] requirements which involve more proactive soil management to maintain minimum soil cover over winter, reduce soil loss from erosion and maintain organic matter levels.

Maize crop trails in Shropshire - part of the solution

The growing of maize has drawn much criticism bearing a ‘bad environmental profile’ due to soil run-off issues and potential nutrient overload. After maize is harvested in the autumn, fields are often left over winter, exposed to heavy rains.

No-one wants to see soil in watercourses or running down the local lanes but extreme weather events can dramatically undo a generation’s work. As the Wye and Usk Foundation state ‘the risk of soil loss from bare maize stubbles over winter is high. 

In North Shropshire a number of organisations are working collaboratively to promote and support enhanced land and water management to ensure more resilience in our food producing landscapes and the adoption of techniques that keep our rivers clean.

With whole catchment management in mind Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Agrovista, Hilley Farm [Pentre], E4Environment Consultancy, Environment Agency and Meres and Mosses Landscape Partnership have been working together to trial a number of under-sowing and cover crop options to demonstrate enhanced soil resource protection on one of the farm’s regular maize fields.

Read the full report - click here (or you can download it from the bottom of this page).

 

 

Downloads

FilenameFile size
hilley_farm_maize_crop_trial_2016-17_report.pdf9.86 MB
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