Both the Natural Capital Committee’s End of Term Report 2020 and the Environmental Audit Committee’s First Report of Session 2021-22 call for a shadow target for soil health to be established urgently, in order to fulfil the aspirations of the 25 Year Plan for the Environment (25YEP).
To this end and in line with the recommendations of the Royal Society report on Soil Structure, Defra commissioned the Sustainable Soils Alliance to take the first steps to understand what would be needed for the development of a soil structure target for England.
The target would cover a range of soil types and land uses to help achieve sustainably managed soil in England by 2030. It will not be a legally binding target or set a target for measuring soil health as a whole. It would be one indicator of soil health and feed into a longer-term statutory soil health target under the Environment Bill for which soil health metrics and a ‘healthy soil’ indicator will be developed. The healthy soil indicator will then feed into a long-term national monitoring scheme.
The SSA developed this project in collaboration with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK CEH) and the Environment Agency, drawing on their extensive practical experience in developing, designing and delivering national and regional soil monitoring programmes and surveys dealing with soil structure.
We hosted a specialist workshop attended by a representative group of experts from science and academia alongside those with practical soils knowledge from farming, urban development, conservation land and woodland management.
The workshop established consensus on the proposed metrics for measuring soil structure, identified where additional considerations were needed and helped provide recommendations and next steps.