News & Updates: Spring 2022
We hope you have all been able to enjoy the springtime and the longer days. With an ever-growing interest in soils from both government, industry and the public - the foundational policy mechanisms needed to promote soil health are beginning to take shape across the UK. Our role this year will be to scrutinise these, establish whether they are fit for purpose and where appropriate, explore alternatives. We look forward to what will be yet another important year for soil policy in the UK.

1. Soil Health Action Plan

In October last year, Defra announced the Soil Health Action Plan for England (SHAPE), which once published will be a strategic vehicle to provide a coherent plan for multiple soil health outcomes. We understand that the Plan’s framework will be out for consultation in the coming months. 

Ahead of this consultation, we started off the year with an online session at the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) in collaboration with the Soil Association and WWF on 'Getting Soils In SHAPE - Putting Soils At The Heart Of UK Farming Policy’. The session discussed the need to balance regulation and incentives, and highlighted the growing business interest in soil for food security and for delivering ecosystem services, including climate mitigation.

Watch or Rewatch our ORFC Session

The Plan will be a priority for us throughout the year and we will continue to consult with the soils community on what is needed in order for it to deliver for soil health in England.

2. Defra's Sustainable Farming Incentive

In March, we hosted a workshop ‘Soils in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI): Delivering results for farming and the environment?’ in partnership with Defra. 

The workshop provided an opportunity for a range of organisations (science, farming, policy-making, NGO) to review the SFI scheme and its two soils standards (Improved Grassland Soils and Arable and Horticultural Soils). It considered the SFI design, content and financial elements alongside its environmental intentions, to evaluate how it will support productive and sustainable farming alongside environmental outcomes.

The workshop report will be available on our wesite here once published and we will alert you via email once it is available online.

We will be hosting our next such workshop later in the year following the SFI roll out in June. You can also find two tables outlining the requirements for the latest SFI Soils Standards (updated in March 2022) on our website here:

Requirements for the Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard
Requirements for the Improved Grassland Soils Standard

3. Defra Soil Structuring and Monitoring Scheme

This quarter we successfully concluded our collaboration with the Environment Agency and UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), to develop a standardised methodology and benchmarks for Defra’s Soil Structure Measuring and Monitoring Scheme. This work will enable farmers and land managers to sample soil organic matter, count earthworms and carry out visual assessment of top soil and subsoil in a consistent way, according to different soil types and land uses, so that changes to soils structure can be measured over time and at scale. It will also enable the collection of baseline data to underpin an informal target which is required to help meet the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to have sustainably managed soil by 2030. 
This work has initially been focussed on improved grasslands and arable and horticultural land. However, benchmarks may also be adapted further in due course for other habitats, eg moorlands, urban and green spaces.

4. UK Farm Soil Carbon Code

In April the UK Farm Soil Carbon Code (UKFSCC) Consortium hosted the third in its series of workshops to share with stakeholders the progress made in developing the Code and the research projects that lie behind it, as well as the outcomes of the engagement with farmers, NGOs, government, investors and businesses already operating in this space. It also provided an opportunity for the over 150 participants present to raise questions and concerns.
Watch or re-watch the workshop
Read the Workshop Report

Once having read the workshop report, we would appreciate your feedback on the three options suggested for the next steps of the Code. You can let us know your thoughts by filling in this short survey:

Respond to the Survey
If you have not already registered for the UK Farm Soil Carbon Code updates, you can do so here.

5. Soil in the UK Supply Chain

In March we launched the Soil Health Industry Platform (SHIP) - a collaborative initiative that aims to examine, harness, align and amplify the efforts of major food and drink businesses (retail and manufacture) to improve soil health and address soil damage throughout the UK supply chain. 

SHIP was prompted by the recommendations of the SSA report, Soils in the UK Supply Chain, published in December last year (commissioned by the WWF/Tesco partnership) and we are delighted to announce that the following businesses have confirmed their commitment to participate in the SHIP: Tesco, Morrisons, Yeo Valley, Kellogg’s, Sainsbury’s, Nestlé and Waitrose. We look forward to welcoming others in due course.

Read our Soil in the UK Supply Chain Report

We responded to Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs' (DAERA) consultation on Future Agricultural Policy Proposals for Northern Ireland, including the participation in soil testing as a condition for the Resilience Payment.

Read our response to the Future Agricultural Policy Proposals for Northern Ireland

We also responded to the UK Climate Change Commission's Call for Evidence on carbon offsets on behalf of the UK Farm Soil Carbon Consortium, highlighting the critical role soil carbon will play.

Read our response to the UK Climate Change Commission's Call for Evidence

We have also submitted a response to the House of Lords Call for Evidence on Land Use in England which will be on our website here once it has been accepted as evidence.


We continue to engage with a variety of key stakeholders, including NGOs, government officials, practitioners, industry leaders, funding organisations and academics, on a number of projects and as part of our stakeholder events. 

We were delighted to present at the UK Agricultural Partnership on 23rd March which was attended by ministers, soil scientists and other NGOs. The partnership sought to share knowledge and best practice around soils between England and the devolved nations. Our Co-Director Matthew Orman spoke at the meeting on the issue of soil carbon and the UK Farm Soil Carbon Code.

In April, we were invited to take part in the Defra Construction Code of Practice for Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites Workshop, led by CL:AIRE. With soils currently making up 58% of the tonnage received by landfills in the UK, stakeholders present discussed the current review of the 2009 Defra Code of Practice guidance. Our working group the Sustainable Urban Soil Health Initiative (SUSHI) has been calling for an updating and expanding of the Code in order for it to promote the adoption of appropriate and considered soil management planning on all development sites. You can read the SUSHI Position Paper on the issue here:

Read the SUSHI Position Paper

We’re pleased to have worked with Weleda on their most recent campaign, pledging to ‘Save Earth’s Skin’ in collaboration with DIRT and model Arizona Muse. Weleda is committing €400,000 to soil-focussed initiatives and is calling the public to join their mission to help regenerate soil. You can find out more here.

We have also engaged with the team behind the public and global campaign by Sadhguru raising the need to Save Soils. Our aim this year is to build on the public interest from this campaign to encourage a wider public focus on soils in the UK and promote scientific integrity in discussions on achieving sustainable soils.


We’d like to thank the Environment Funding Network and the Funding Network, for selecting us alongside the Orchard Project and Poverty and Environment Trust to pitch to donors and gain financial support during their EFN Live event. A very special thanks goes to Tim Smit, Co-Founder of the Eden Project and SSA champion, who pitched for the SSA alongside our Co-Director Matthew Orman.

Watch our Pitch

We’d also like to thank the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for their continuing support and the Network for Social Change for a grant extension in 2022.


As well as continuing the project work above, over the next few months, we will be turning our attention to the following policy issues and challenges:

  • Soils education and training at all levels (farmer, graduate, advisor etc) - is it fit for purpose?

  • How to kickstart public appreciation and understanding of soil health?

We would welcome any thoughts, contributions or advice if you have been working on either of these areas. Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss these further by emailing us at

We hope you will enjoy the warmer months ahead and we look forward to updating you on our progress on another busy quarter in the summer. 

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued interest in and support for the SSA!

The SSA Team: Ellen, Matt, Anicée, George, Nev, Kevin and Robert.

To keep up to date with soil news from around the UK and further afield follow us on Twitter @soilsalliance and watch out for our Week in Soil update, published every Friday morning. Have some news or a soil-related event to share with our community? Email
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have donated to the SSA. We're extremely grateful for all contributions, large & small.
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