Committee is looking into the impact of agricultural inputs on soil health

The Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee is continuing its inquiry into soil health by looking into the effects of pesticides and fertilisers.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 24 May, a session will focus on agricultural inputs, principally plant protection products and fertilisers. This follows on from the last oral evidence in the inquiry, when the committee discussed the role of the agricultural sector and the barriers and potential incentives to improving soil health. 

The UK government’s 2021 Food Security Report identified soil health as a risk area. The government says that artificial fertilisers and pesticides are associated with many soil health issues, and as soil health has declined over the years, “some farmers have compensated by using more artificial products to maintain crop yields, creating a vicious circle of further degradation.”

The session will look at potential ways to ways to reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides and what might be done to encourage the use of more organic fertilisers, as well as methods for reducing pests more naturally, while ensuring sufficient production levels.

Witnesses on the first panel are Professor Karen Johnson, professor in environmental engineering at Durham University; Dr Martin Blackwell, soil biogeochemist at Rothamsted Research; and Professor David Spurgeon, ecotoxicological researcher at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

The second panel features Helen Browning, chief executive at the Soil Association; Dr Jane Gilbert, fellow of the Chartered Institution of Waste Management; Jenny Grant, head of organics and natural capital at the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology; and John Williams, head of soils and nutrients at ADAS.