Britain's soil to become infertile within 40 years due to intensive farming, warns Minister
The UK has only 40 years of fertile crop growing left because intensive farming is “cutting the ground from beneath" our feet, Michael Gove has warned.
The Environment Secretary said heavy farm machinery and overuse of chemicals was boosting short-term productivity but would render large tracts of soil infertile within a generation.
Speaking at the Parliamentary launch of the Sustainable Soils Association (SSA), a group formed to tackle the issue, Mr Gove said Britain had encouraged types of farming which “damaged the earth”.
“Countries can withstand coups d’etat, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility,” he said.
“If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improves yields but in the long-term undercut the future fertility of the soil, you can increase yields year-on-year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feat.
“Farmers know that.”
Mr Gove said farmers needed to be incentivised to tackle the loss of soil fertility and the decline in bio-diversity more generally.
Soil fertility decline occurs when the nutrient requirements of a crop are met from soil reserves, meaning more nutrients are being removed from the earth over time than are introduced.