Letter to the Editor - Farm soil subsidies

The Times, September 2017

Times letter soil subsidies.PNG

Sir,

There has been considerable discussion of the opportunity to improve agri-environment schemes after Brexit.  One attractive idea is payment for outcomes that have public benefit, rather than subsidies based on land area.  Soil protection is one area where such monies can be wisely spent.

In addition to food production soils provide many environmental benefits, including flood protection, recycling of nutrients, water purification and climate regulation. These benefits are hampered by the continuing loss of soil carbon as described in the parliamentary soil health inquiry in 2016.

If such a payment is accepted, the issue then becomes what indicator we use to determine soil improvement. During the soil health inquiry, soil organic carbon content was identified as the indicator of soil quality that the scientists agreed on.

We also concur that soil organic carbon contents should be the measure of choice, and that maintaining or increasing this vital driver of soil health should be financially rewarded. This would benefit farmers' productivity and enhance the environmental benefits provided by soils to the wider community.

 Professor Liz Baggs

Professor Steve Banwart

Professor Richard Bardgett

Professor Gary Bending

Professor Colin Campbell

Professor Chris Collins

Professor Tim Daniell

Professor Lorna Dawson

Professor Jennifer Dungait

Professor Bridget Emmett

Professor Keith Goulding

Professor Peter Gregory

 Plus a further 20 professors of soil science at the times.co.uk letters