Soil

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 22nd December 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they currently monitor soil quality in the UK, including soil organic matter content, soil loss and the extent and severity of soil compaction; and if so, what data are available.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether there are sufficient data to create an accurate baseline of soil quality in the UK from which to measure improvement or degradation.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what targets are in place to improve soil quality in UK agricultural land.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what body, institution or group is responsible for measuring and analysing UK soils through soil testing, and whether such soil testing is regulated.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the effectiveness of UK soil protection policies, such as those contained in their cross compliance guidance, is evaluated, and what improvements have been seen as a result of such policies.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what options have been considered to produce a UK-wide map of soils, including the potential for the private sector to invest in such a scheme.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

The 2007 Countryside Survey measured changes in soil organic matter content of soils in Great Britain. It also measured bulk density and a number of other physical and chemical characteristics of soil. A new baseline survey for soil carbon was carried out in 2009 as part of the EU Land Cover and Land Use Statistics (LUCAS) exercise. The 2015 LUCAS soil samples are currently being analysed.

Defra does not routinely monitor national rates of soil loss (erosion), but we are funding research to pilot a national soil erosion monitoring framework for monitoring soil erosion in England and Wales.

Defra also funded a survey of soil compaction levels in grasslands in England and Wales in 2011.

No formal assessment has been made of the sufficiency of the baseline data from which to measure changes in soil quality.

The Government recognises that soil is essential for underpinning a range of benefits, including food production, but also biodiversity, carbon storage and flood protection.

While the future direction of soils policy will be considered as part of the development of the 25 year plans for Food and Farming, and Environment, government is already taking action to improve soil quality.

This includes new rules underpinning cross compliance which anyone claiming Common Agricultural Policy payments must comply with. The rules require a minimum level of soil cover, prevention of erosion and measures to protect the organic matter levels of soil. The new rules take an outcome based approach, instead of the previous paper-based system, thereby focussing on environmental improvements while reducing burdens for farmers. The Government will continue to monitor the implementation of the new rules.

No single body or institution has responsibility for measuring and analysing soils in the UK. Soil testing is carried out by a mix of commercial laboratories and Public Analyst labs. Typically laboratories are accredited and adhere to British Standards on testing procedures. However, there are no regulations governing soil testing procedures themselves.

There are existing soil maps for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which use different soil classifications. There are currently no plans to produce a new UK soil map, and we have not explored options for private sector investment.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes0 people think so

No0 people think not

Would you like to ask a question like this yourself? Use our Freedom of Information site.