Newly developed health measure also a good predictor of carbon storage
Scientists led by Rothamsted Research have developed an easy to use ‘soil health’ measure that shows for the first time that 38% of arable soils in England and Wales are degraded.
This is compared with less than 7% of grassland and woodland soils being given the same rating.
Developed from the findings of a number of European studies, their index classifies soils by the proportion of organic matter versus clay that they contain, and is a good predictor of how much carbon they can take up and store – vital in the fight against climate change – as well as a general indicator of how well they are functioning.
The data behind the index is based on more than 3,800 soils collected between 1978 and 1983 as part of a national soil survey, and according to lead author and PhD student, Jonah Prout, changes in soil carbon take time - so the message of these results is likely to still apply today.