Investment needed for UK soils to boost food production, farmers say

Healthy soils are needed for food production and to meet ecological goals (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

More investment is needed for UK soils to secure food production and meet environmental targets, farmers have urged.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said healthy soils were essential to growing food in Britain, storing carbon and stimulating wildlife, as well as preventing floods and helping the UK cope with the climate. dry.

In a new report, the NFU calls for more investment in research and innovation to maintain soil health and incentives to encourage farmers to adopt management measures that improve its condition.

The organization also wants to see sustainable food production prioritized in peatland management, flexibility in leasing arrangements to reward tenants for improving soil quality, and the development of a carbon offset market for provide payments for increasing carbon storage in soils.

Our national food security has been thrown into sharp relief under the immense pressure caused by the crisis in Ukraine and the simultaneous shocks in global wheat supply since then.

David Exwood, NFU

Farmers can improve soil health through measures such as shifting plowing to minimum where appropriate, adding organic matter and manure, growing cover crops, crop rotation, agroforestry, limiting farm machinery, and maintaining drainage, according to The report.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “Everything we do to produce food, energy and fiber absolutely depends on the health of our soils.

“Our national food security has come into sharp relief under the immense pressure caused by the crisis in Ukraine and the simultaneous impacts on global wheat supply stemming from it.

“The challenge for farmers and producers is to produce more food from our land, in addition to delivering public goods.”

He said the pressure on food security showed there was not enough land in the UK to have separate land to grow food in some areas and deliver public goods in others.

“We must have the twin-track approach of growing food and taking care of our environment from the same soil, the same fields. That is why it is so vital that we do our land management right.”

Despite the current turmoil, high input costs for agriculture and massive changes to the post-Brexit subsidy regime, Exwood warned that “we cannot stop looking at the need to improve our land management and footprint. greenhouse gases”.

The Department for the Environment (Defra) has focused on soil health in the first part of the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme: the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), a measure that has been welcomed by the NFU.

Mr Exwood said the incentive scheme would deliver nothing if it did not involve farmers and the NFU wanted to work with Defra to make it work for farmers.

He said it was vital that the new payment schemes fairly reward farmers for public goods, such as healthy soil and nutrient management, and enable them to improve their vital work.

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