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Victoria Hume

Soil SmARt

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Soils are the foundation for life on earth, providing benefits to the whole world around us.

Why are soils important?

Food grown in soils provides around 98% of all the calories humans consume. Soils are also a valuable habitat for all sorts of organisms – by some estimates more than half of all terrestrial species live in the soil!

One teaspoon of healthy soil can have 10 billion organisms in it!

Soils can help fight climate change

Soils can store carbon. In fact, soils store more carbon than all the trees and plants, and the atmosphere combined!

Furthermore, healthy soils can help prevent or reduce flooding as they can absorb water and slowly release it into the rivers, instead of all the water entering the rivers at once.

Why do we need to improve our soils?

Unfortunately our soils are under threat. Some land management practices mean that soils are being sealed (covered with concrete), soil is being eroded and degraded, and carbon is being lost from soils.

How do soils impact river quality?

You might be wondering what the link between soil health and water quality is. The truth is that they are very connected to each other.

When it rains, the rainwater can run over the earth's surface and into the nearby waterbodies, this is known as run off. When this happens over soil, the rain can take the soil and all sorts of pollutants and chemicals with it and straight into the rivers. The extra soil in the water can make the water murky and can smother marine creatures.

Healthy soils, however, can help to improve water quality, as they are able to stick together better, reducing erosion and pollution, and can improve water infiltration, reducing water runoff.

In our area 67% of waterbodies are being impacted by pollution from agriculture and the River Rother is the most erodible catchment in the UK.

What is Soil SmART?

This innovative project is part of our vision to improve the health of our rivers, through improving soil health.

In this project we aim to increase understanding of the importance of good soil health and promote the improvement of soils.

Soil SmARt is a part of a larger project called CaSTCo, an innovation project focused on uniting the different organisations involved in river health in the UK.

CaSTCo logo and strapline "Making sure that people count at the heart of rivers recovery".

What are you currently doing?

Being part of CaSTCo enables us to be a trial area for different soil monitoring methods. This current project focuses on the Western Rother and the River Arun catchments. 

We are working with 5 farmers across the catchment to monitor the health of their soils. Together we are designing a soil health monitoring scheme that uses easy and low-cost tests which can be done in the field by farmers or volunteers. This allows farmers to test their soils anytime they want.

This testing method helps farmers gain greater knowledge about their soil’s health, as well as helping us to have a better understanding of the health of local soils and inform a plan for what we can do to improve them.

What are the future plans for this project?

In the future, we are aiming to have more farmer groups working on the Soil SmARt project. We would also like to engage more with non-farmers in the area to promote better understanding of soils and their importance, and hope to focus on urban areas and private gardens/allotments.

We need your support to help us continue to protect and enhance our beautiful rivers and streams. Any donation, small or large, will help us carry out vital project work like Soil SmART.

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Action for our riverscapes