26 November 1999

Management of soil has effect on environment aidenvironment

FARMERS are to get extra help to manage their soils more effectively in an effort to cut the environmental damage caused by more than 2.3m tonnes of soil lost from farmland each year.

By promoting minimal cultivation techniques the Soil Management Initiative believes it can help save farmers money and reduce surface run-off, which causes flooding, pesticide and fertiliser pollution and silting of rivers and streams.

New way of thinking

Switching away from ploughing can save up to £50/ha (£20/acre), explained independent consultant Steve Townsend at the groups launch on Tuesday. 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, one of seven across Europe, comes from the EU. Key players Monsanto, Simba, ADAS and the Environment Agency will provide further support. &#42