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New government focus on soil health

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has highlighted the current threat to UK agricultural productivity of depleted soils. He said “We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth”. According to a Guardian article, Michael Gove said “the UK is 30-40 years away from the fundamental eradication of soil fertility”.

It is positive that Gove has recognised the importance of soils. The next step is that he recognises the positive role that AD can play in restoring soils. The Case for Crop Feedstocks for AD has previously outlined many of the soil benefits of using crops for AD, and our most recent policy proposals on the Future of AD in Farming suggested the option of a Biofertiliser Credit Scheme to support the use of digestate in reducing artificial fertiliser emissions and building organic matter in soil.

We will be writing to Michael Gove to outline how AD can contribute to repleneshing soils. We have evidence on how digestate provides nutrients to farming. We also have evidence to suggest that farmers are using digestate to build up the carbon-rich fibre fraction of soils. For example, one farmer told me he was using crop-only AD to help build the organic fraction of his soil from 1% to 2%. As The Practical Guide to AD states, crop-based liquor digestate may have a dry matter percentage of 8%, while the fibre fraction may be 16%. So clearly this helps in repleneshing the soils. But further data is of course always useful.

Any thoughts let us know,

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