STRIKING the right balance between conservation and food production is one of the greatest challenges facing the countryside, and today’s report on soil erosion by the Campaign to Protect Rural England underlines what a thorny problem it is.
The CPRE’s key finding that the soil we rely upon to grow food is being damaged is worrying.
Erosion and loss of fertility, it claims, have serious implications for feeding the nation, as well as for carbon storage.
But pointing the finger of blame for this at farmers is bound to anger many in agriculture as well as the wider rural community, which would justifiably argue that those who work the land are also its guardians.
It is not in their interests to damage the soil on which their businesses and livelihoods depend.
Farmers are expected to provide a reliable and affordable supply of food, year in and year out, and therefore would contend that they must use their land as efficiently as possible.
Indeed, however Brexit turns out, it is possible that Britain will rely more on home-grown produce if imported food costs increase.
To its credit, the CPRE is suggesting a series of measures to tackle soil problems, and it may be that farmers find themselves in agreement with at least some of them.
Above all, though, the issue of soil degradation is one that must be tackled. The way forward is for all those with the best interests of the countryside at heart to work together in doing so.