Devon and Cornwall Soils Alliance

The DCSA is addressing the perilous state of our soils by building capacity and capability in soils advice across Devon and Cornwall.

Est. number of people
who benefit directly

Our story

The Devon and Cornwall Soils Alliance (DCSA) launched on 3 June, 2019. The aim of the alliance is to build capacity and capability in soils advice across Devon and Cornwall.

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 is 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 'Special Areas of Conservation' (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.

Our advice

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.

Our metrics

The main outputs are:
- the training of people which includes 1 day of training for 40+ soil advisors,
- 10+ mentors trained to help provide advice to others,
- 2x demonstration SAC sites – including advice and remediation works
(these shall be assessed post-mediation to observe soil structure),
- 7 x Feasibility study reports – the success shall be determined if we can get extra funding for these catchments.
Share this initiative
Soils Alliance surveying the area.
Soils Alliance surveying the area.