Soils underpin our food supply and environment. We must ensure that farming practices and soil management regenerate the soils that we depend upon.
We at CPRE have long called for better care of that unassuming brown stuff that we often take for granted.
The thin layer of soil covering the earth’s surface is the difference between survival and extinction for most terrestrial life.
For almost all of our food – 95% according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – we rely on rainfall falling on a thin layer of soil, often only a few centimetres thick. This living planetary skin is proportionally 10,000 times thinner than our own.
But we’re taking soils for granted.
We’ve created an immersive story, including insights from expert farmers like John Cherry, to help us all better understand why it’s going to be so vital for us all to care for the muddy stuff in years to come.
Read: Save our soils
And let’s not forget peat!
Peat might seem like unimpressive boggy soil, but we know that it’s a quiet, carbon-busting countryside superstar.
The potential benefits of peat conservation are huge. Not only does peat lock up carbon but it’s also a valuable habitat for all sorts of wildlife. It offers a spongy hilltop reserve for heavy rainfalls, reducing the risk of flash flooding lower down watercourses.
And restoring peatlands makes financial sense, too. The Office of National Statistics report that restoring 55% of peatlands to near-natural condition is likely to bring a present net benefit value of around £50 billion!
The government’s Peat Action Plan (May 2021) was a step in the right direction. One proposal was to stop peat use in amateur gardening by 2024 and this is now going ahead. They’ll also commission a detailed map of peatlands to use as a baseline for future measurements. Despite these positive signs, the proposed funding is a fraction of what is being offered for new road and rail developments.
There’s so much to do – we need funding for peat to have parity with trees (a pot of £500million for tree planting was announced in 2021) – and the level of ambition to stay high and unwavering.