Announced in a speech in the House of Lords by the Minister of State for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, the Soil Health Action Plan (SHAPE) will help restore the health of England’s soils and will contribute to the government’s targets on biodiversity. The plan will be a crucial part of Defra’s efforts to halt the decline of species by 2030 and recognises that well-managed soils can result in increased biodiversity, improved water quality and reduced carbon emissions.
Further details on SHAPE will be announced shortly and a consultation on the draft outline is due to open in Spring 2022.
After the plan was announced, the Soil Association brought forward the publication of its ‘Saving Our Soils – Healthy soils for our climate, nature and health’ report which calls for national soil strategies in all the countries of the UK backed up by soil monitoring. The report introduces seven ways to save our soils:
- Monitor soil health on farms
- Increase the amount of plant and animal matter going back onto fields
- Improve soil life by reducing tillage and chemicals
- Cover up bare soil with continuous plant cover
- Bring more trees onto farmland (agroforestry)
- Reduce soil compaction from machinery and livestock
- Design crop rotations to improve soil health
Read the full report
Speaking on the announcement of SHAPE, the Soil Association’s Farming and Land Use Policy Officer, Louise Payton said:
“This is fantastic news. For too long soil has been sorely neglected in plans to tackle our environment crisis overshadowed by water, air quality and biodiversity and yet it is one of the most significant solutions to the climate crisis.
“Soils have been referred to as the ‘Cinderella of the natural world’. Working busily away, out of view, dirty, un-loved and neglected. A poor relation of other environmental assets, water, air quality and even biodiversity as a policy priority. Thanks to the great work by many including supportive Peers in the House of Lords, (let’s call them Cinderella’s fairy godmothers), it looks like things are changing.”
“Water and air quality have their Framework Directives but soil has been long overlooked and yet our soils are losing life, losing carbon and eroding away, threatening our food security, climate and wildlife. Things may be even worse than we think, given the lack of monitoring.”
This announcement of SHAPE comes just as the Environment Bill is due to receive royal assent in October or November.