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One hundred trees planted by the River Stour on World Soil Day

PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 08 December 2018

Volunteers from the Environment Agency and Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project  at the tree planting day in Clare

Volunteers from the Environment Agency and Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project at the tree planting day in Clare

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Calls for soil to be placed “at the heart of the environmental agenda”.

Black poplar, Guelder rose, field maple and hazel were among the trees plantedBlack poplar, Guelder rose, field maple and hazel were among the trees planted

Volunteers planted 100 trees earlier this week as part of a project to improve land next to the River Stour.

Members of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project worked with officers from the Environment Agency to plant a range of trees and shrubs next to Chilton Brook near the River Stour in Clare, west Suffolk.

They chose December 5 - designated as World Soil Day - to carry out the task. The aim is that the selection of black poplar, Guelder rose, field maple and hazel will provide habitat for birds and insects, create shade to keep the river cool and minimise soil erosion.

The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project and the Environment Agency work in partnership to carry out The River Stour Enhancement Project.The project also includes river restoration work, riverside tree planting, and monitoring and controlling of invasive non-native species such as Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam.

Priority catchment team leader for the Environment Agency in East Anglia, Dr Trevor Bond, said: “The trees planted by Environment Agency volunteers will be amongst hundreds planted across the area, which collectively help protect our valuable soils and ensure this irreplaceable resource is not lost.”

World Soil Day is an initiative launched by the UN to raise awareness about the problem of soil degradation around the world.

This week the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), launched a publication which said soil must be put ‘at the heart of the environmental agenda”.

The lobbying group said industrial farming practices, poor land management and damage from development have contributed to soil being eroded, compacted and losing fertility. Failing to take action could “squander an irreplaceable and priceless natural resource”, the report said, as well as risking “food shortage, even famine, flood, polluted waters, declining nature and greater costs, inefficiencies and waste”.

Inversion ploughing, overgrazing and compaction from heavy machinery has led to almost three million tonnes of topsoil being eroded every year across the UK, the CPRE said. Such soil degradation has left an area of farmland the size of Yorkshire at risk of further erosion - more than one third of all of the UK’s arable land, it added.

The publication, called Back to the Land: Rethinking Our Approach to Soil, sets out five recommendations, which the group said could help reduce damage to and loss of soil.They include rethinking farming practices, focusing more on conservation agriculture, agroforestry, pasture-based livestock farming and farming on rewetted peatlands.

Graeme Willis, senior rural policy campaigner at the CPRE, said: “For far too long we have been ignoring the fragility of such a precious commodity. Only now is the Government starting to address the damage decades of neglect has caused.

“Ensuring our soils are healthy is crucial if we are to effectively tackle climate change - or mitigate its worst effects.

“New agriculture policy must promote measures that support farmers to sustainably manage, protect and regenerate soils, and drive carbon from the atmosphere back into the ground.”

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