The Government recognises soil is one of our greatest natural assets, underpinning a range of benefits, including food production, biodiversity, carbon storage, and flood protection. The 25 Year Environment Plan sets out the Government’s ambition to sustainably managed soils by 2030, helping soils to function better to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services.
The Government is also developing a new Soil Health Monitoring Scheme for England to produce a new robust data baseline. A healthy soils indicator is also being developed where soil carbon is being considered as one of many key soil variables. The indicator will feed into the Scheme and will inform a future target for soil health under the Environment Bill.
Furthermore, a new Soil Structure Measuring and Monitoring Scheme is being developed to enable visual assessments to be carried by farmers and land managers across all land use, soil type and climate. This scheme will provide a user-friendly way of measuring long-term trends.
Future Farming Plans
Landmark plans for a renewed agricultural sector were set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan and will transform the way we support farmers to reward them properly for the work that they do.
The new system will be centred around incentivising sustainable farming practices, profitable food production and rewarding farmers for producing public goods such as better air and water quality.
Defra is working to make new schemes straightforward and attractive for farmers to reduce their costs and improve their profitability. Three future schemes that reward environmentally sustainable actions are being introduced: the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery. These schemes will operate together and pay for actions to support sustainable farming practices alongside profitable food production, improve animal health and welfare, improve environmental outcomes, and reduce carbon emissions.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive will support sustainable approaches to farm husbandry to improve soil health. For example, a farmer might be paid to take actions to boost the levels of organic matter in soils and establish green cover crops.
Additional information is available on the Natural England website: Natural England publishes major new report on carbon storage and sequestration by habitat – Natural England (blog.gov.uk)