Compost and worms

Seven ways to save Scotland’s soils

Seven ways to save Scotland’s soils

Soil is a precious resource. With our new document, ‘Seven Ways to Save Our Soils: Scotland’, we’re calling on politicians, policy makers and farmers to do their bit to protect soils in Scotland and across the UK, before it’s too late. The goal is to reach the target of increasing soil organic matter in Scottish arable and horticultural soils by 20% over the next 20 years.

Increasing soil organic matter is not only important for keeping our farms productive; healthy soils are also better at locking up carbon, help mitigate climate change, and are more resilient to both floods and droughts. In turn, these effects all protect crops from unpredictable weather events which are increasingly affecting farmers.

Lyn White, our Agricultural Development Manager at Soil Association Scotland, says: “Our soil should be seen as the most valuable asset on our farms. We need to see it as a living resource to be protected and treated with care if it is to go on providing the multitude of benefits it does for us now and in the future. With this document we want to engage with everyone that has a part to play – from farmers to politicians. Crucially, we are asking the Scottish and UK governments to improve incentives for farming practices that promote healthy soils, and to fund more research to demonstrate the real-world advantages these practices can bring for farmers.”

The seven areas we recommend as focus points for reaching the 20% target are:

  • recycling plant and animal matter for natural fertilisers;
  • improving soil health monitoring nationwide;
  • encouraging soil organisms;
  • protecting soils from damage with continuous vegetation cover;
  • planting and retaining trees on vulnerable and marginal land;
  • reducing soil compaction from livestock and machinery; and
  • introducing crop rotations designed to improve soil health.

These are areas that organic farms already focus on, so an increase in organic farming practices could help to achieve the target. However, non-organic farmers also have a lot to gain by adopting the suggested methods; in particular, reduced costs from chemical inputs, an increased understanding of their crops and soils, and land that is more resilient to change.

Saving our soil is an important task with major implications for the future of agriculture in this country. In its new call to action, the Soil Association is challenging government and farmers to do what they can to secure the future of this precious resource.

Find out more

Download ‘Seven Ways to Save Our Soil: Scotland’ for more information or take a look at the quick graphic setting out the top line issues. Soil Association Scotland is also running DIY farm trials called field labs to examine the effectiveness of different farming and growing practices – read more and contact us to get involved. 

We are also supporting the James Hutton Institute ‘Best Soil in Show’ competition as part of the Royal Highland Show. To be in the running for free soil analysis, tickets for the Highland Show and a shiny new spade, get involved and read more to find out how to enter.