The organics charity says urgent action is needed to improve degrading UK soil and preserve food production, and urges Brits to get involved in World Soil Day

The Soil Association is calling for urgent government action to help improve UK soils as the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) publishes a report to conclude its inquiry into soil health today (5 December).

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The UK has lost 84 per cent of its fertile topsoil since 1850

The EFRA report provides recommendations for government after the committee’s inquiry examined how the government can “turn the tide on soil degradation”.

While the Soil Association says it welcomes the warning, the charity wants to see stronger action from government to save Britain’s soils – and is calling for Brits to join them in sending a “Soil SOS” to Parliament for World Soil Day, which takes place today.

In response to the EFRA report, Soil Association head of farming policy Gareth Morgan said: “Soil is so much more than the dirt beneath our feet – life on earth depends on it as much as it depends on water and air. We cannot produce food without it, a quarter of Earth’s species live in the soil, and it stores more carbon than the atmosphere.

“But British soils are in crisis and a rapid shift to a soil-centred farming system is urgently needed following decades of intensive farming practices that have resulted in soil erosion and loss of soil organic matter. As we told this inquiry when giving evidence, there is no time to lose.

“The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s new report issues a strong warning about declining soil health, but its proposals lack urgency. The recommendations to invest more in sustainable farming policies need to be enacted but stronger regulation will also be needed to put a stop to practices that are harming soils.

“With healthier soils on organic farms, the government must prioritise all nature-friendly, agroecological farming, which is the most evidenced based approach for saving our degrading soils.”

The Soil Association is urging people to get involved with World Soil Day by sharing the message echoed in today’s EFRA report – that looking to the ground is just as important as looking up to trees and out to water in the fight against climate change.

According to Soil Association statistics, half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years, and globally around 30 football pitches of fertile soil is lost each minute.

The UK has lost 84 per cent of its fertile topsoil since 1850, with erosion continuing at 1cm to 3cm a year, and costing England and Wales £1.2 billion every year, the charity warns.

“It takes 100 years for just 1-2cm of topsoil to form, and soil that is lost to pollution or erosion will need hundreds or even thousands of years to recover on its own,” the Soil Association says.