FARMERS HAVE been warned they must wake up to soil management or risk losing their Single Farm Payment.

But they will need help and advice to ensure they meet new cross-compliance conditions, according to Professor Dick Godwin of the National Soil Resources Institute.

Prof Godwin was speaking at the Institute of Agricultural Engineers‘ Annual Conference, at the Royal Agricultural College on Thursday (May 13).

A condition of receiving the SFP, from Jan 1 2005, will be that farmers will have to comply with new EU legislation to keep land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).

“To maintain GAEC, farmers will need advice and guidance to help them assess their land to identify problem areas,” he said.

They would have to select measures to tackle issues such as curtailing erosion, minimising run-off and managing soil compaction, he added.

“The advent of GAEC makes soil management something no farmer can afford to ignore,” Prof Godwin warned.

New guidelines on the principles of good soil management from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, due to be launched this summer, will help, he said.

These have been compiled by ADAS and NSRI, which is also hoping for DEFRA funding for a new range of NSRI short courses.

The BASIS-accredited courses are aimed at helping farmers and land advisers understand good soil and water management practices.

New technology and research into compaction will also help farmers maintain GAEC, Prof Godwin noted.

“Compaction will be a key area for farmers to consider when working towards their SFP compliance.”