Our soils are in a perilous state with more than 40% of soils degraded. Coupled with this, the accuracy, quality and consistency of advice across Devon and Cornwall is insufficient to deal with the scale of the problem. Currently, the public, private and charitable sectors are all trying to address this, but the size of the problem should not be underestimated and there are still considerable flooding, drought and pollution problems across the region.
The DCSA builds on work done through the Channel Payments for Ecosystem Services (CPES) project, to improve the articulation between advisors and regulators, and the Risk Aqua Soil (RAS) project, looking as monitoring soil water health as a way of assessing management outcomes.
The DCSA acts as a non-political, non-lobbying collection of like-minded individuals operating through a myriad of projects and partnerships with an aim to:
BUILD CAPABILITY – Soils advice and knowledge of farming across the region is highly variable. The DCSA aims to improve this by delivering training and mentoring through farm advisory projects.
BUILD CAPACITY – There are 80+ advisors within the public, private and third sector but the need for soil management advice is significantly more than this.
At present, it is often a small handful of soil scientists close to retirement who are found in a hole in the field reviewing soil health. The DCSA wants to understand not only who will ‘fill’ the holes of the future but also how many mentors we need across the region.
To help facilitate this, a Water Environment Grant (WEG) project, funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) was developed to initiate this approach. The main deliverables of the project are:
• 40+ advisors trained – 1-day training – we provide the trainer and attendees provide their time. No previous experience necessary but you should be active on farms
• 10+ mentors – British Society of Soil Science members and Richard Smith mentoring over 7-days cumulatively – Mentors are already trained in soils advice and will utilise advice in the future and train future trainees.
• 2 demonstration SAC remediation areas – Axe (Corry Brook) and Camel (Allen) to showcase farmer and advisor led techniques to remedy compacted soils
• 7 feasibility reports – Farm visit work in catchments across Devon and Cornwall to highlight the diversity of soils across region
A joined up and collaborative approach can be much stronger for broad issues such as soil management or carbon.
Getting people together to share & discuss best practice.
Alliances can take time to develop.