25 November 1999
Extra farm aid aims to help save soil

By Farmers Weekly staff

FARMERS are to get extra help in an effort to reduce environmental damage caused by more than 2.3 million tonnes of soil lost from farmland each year.

By promoting minimal cultivation techniques the Soil Management Initiative (SMI) believes it can help save farmers money and reduce surface run-off.

The side-effects of some farming practices on soil cause flooding, pesticide and fertiliser pollution and silting of rivers and streams.

Switching away from ploughing can save up to £50/ha (£20/acre), said farm consultant Steve Townsend, but management practices must change too.

“It requires a new way of thinking,” he stressed.

Discussion groups, meetings and on-farm demonstrations will help get the message across, said SMI chairman Andre Carter of ADAS Rosemaund.

“We want to bridge the gap between laboratory theory and field practice, so farmers can make the most of better soil management advice.”

Start-up funding for the group will come from Brussels. Key players Monsanto, Simba, ADAS and the Environment Agency will provide further support.