14 November 1997

Risk of soil erosion will rise, says MAFF

By Tony McDougal

CLIMATE change, extreme weather conditions, and changes in land management practices could lead to greater problems of soil erosion in the future, MAFF has warned.

Releasing a new booklet to combat erosion this week, junior farm minister Elliot Morley said he had commissioned ADAS to set up pilot schemes this winter in areas where soils were at high risk of erosion by water.

One of the first pilot schemes could take place in Hampshire, where erosion of chalk land has led to increased sediment in rivers, such as the Test, Itchen and Avon, which has hit fish stocks.

Mr Morley said that while soil erosion in the UK was less of a problem than in other countries, it was more widespread than commonly thought and its consequences could be significant. Areas suffering problems included peat land in the Pennines, and the sandy and chalk soils of southern England and the west Midlands in which maize was grown.

"I know some local authorities which have had to take out snow ploughs to clear soil erosion from the roads," he told FW.

The guide, which has the backing of the CLA, Environment Agency and the NFU, follows the publication last year of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollutions report Sustainable Use of Soil, which expressed concern at erosion caused by maize.

Gordon Newman, Maize Growers Association spokesman, said the MGA had taken action following last years report, producing a leaflet on combating erosion. "The best advice we can give is to follow maize with Italian ryegrass, and secondly, to drill maize across the slope."

Henry Fell, Royal Comm-issioner, said the report also suggested better use of buffer strips between cultivated land and water- courses to minimise soil loss.