The need for better soil, and fewer people | Letters

Farmers should be incentivised to switch to nature-friendly farming techniques, writes Graeme Willis of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Meanwhile Melvyn Rust says people should be persuaded to have slightly fewer children

Your article (Can we feed the world if we ditch intensive farming?, The Briefing, Journal, 28 January) highlights the hugely detrimental impact that industrial farming is having on the quality of our soils . The Campaign to Protect Rural England’s recent report on this very issue echoed many of these concerns, highlighting that soil degradation costs at least £1.2bn a year in England and Wales alone. Soil must be seen not only as a fundamental for delivering productive farming and a healthy countryside, but also critical to tackling climate change – or mitigating its worst effects. Its importance should not be understated.

There are solutions, however. By scaling up and incentivising farmers to switch to nature-friendly farming techniques, such as conservation agriculture and agroforestry, we will create a productive farming industry that works with nature and enables farmers to reduce their costs, while still producing the food and services that we need. Rebuilding biological life in soils is vital to enabling this life-giving asset to function as it should. Our soil will once again effectively lock in carbon, store and filter water, support ecosystems and restore the health of the natural environment.
Graeme Willis
Senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England

• On page 3 of the Journal I read “the modern western diet needs a complete overhaul if we are to avoid potential ecological catastrophe” (Eat less meat – and redraw the entire global food system, 28 January). And on page 10: “Can we feed the world if we ditch intensive farming?”

Both of these concerns are predicated on a global population in excess of 10 billion people by 2050. Might it not be easier to persuade people to have slightly fewer children than it would be to move the western world on to a diet of nuts and berries? Of course it would also help to reduce our CO2 emissions and our carbon footprint.
Melvyn Rust
St Albans, Hertfordshire

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