Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 09:39 UK

Soil health 'threatens farming'

Organic vegetables
The report raises concerns about the future of food production in England

Some areas of England may not be fit for productive agriculture in future because of deteriorating soil quality, a new report warns.

The Royal Agricultural Society of England is worried that too much is being asked of the land in places.

The society said heavy machinery, drier summers and changing growing seasons are all taking their toll on the soil.

It added that most research tends to focus on environmental issues, rather than growing food.

The study looked at the state of soil and water management across England.

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The report especially cites eastern England as an example of an area where the land is being worked intensively with heavy machinery to produce fruit and vegetables.

Drier summers and changing growing seasons are also being seen in that area, and the quality of the soil is said to be changing as a result.

Professor Dick Godwin, who helped author the report, said that without more research into how soil will adapt to a changing climate, growing food could become more difficult and flooding could increase.

The professor said: "I think as far as production is concerned at the moment we are managing to produce a reasonable amount of food from our own resource - but we could do better than that and as populations increase around the world we need to do it.

"I think the major concern of the Royal Agricultural Society of England in commissioning this report was really in 'Where do farmers get their advice from, where do they get new applied research?'."

He said the challenge was to make sure farmers were able to access new advice - in a useful fashion - to help them secure food supplies in Britain for the long term.


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