University of Oulu

Jaworski, C. C., Krzywoszynska, A., Leake, J. R., & Dicks, L. V. (2023). Sustainable soil management in the United Kingdom: A survey of current practices and how they relate to the principles of regenerative agriculture. Soil Use and Management, 00, 1–20.

Sustainable soil management in the United Kingdom : a survey of current practices and how they relate to the principles of regenerative agriculture

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Author: Jaworski, Coline C.1,2; Krzywoszynska, Anna3,4; Leake, Jonathan R.5;
Organizations: 1Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
2INRAE, CNRS, UMR ISA, Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France
3Department of Geography, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
4History, Culture and Communications, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Plants, Photosynthesis and Soil, School of Biosciences, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
6School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-25


Sustainable soil management is essential to prevent agricultural soil degradation and maintain food production and core soil-based ecosystem services. Regenerative agriculture, one approach to sustainable soil management, is rapidly gaining traction in UK farming and policy. However, it is unclear what farmers themselves consider to be sustainable soil management practices, and how these relate to the principles of regenerative agriculture. Further, there is little insight into how sustainable soil management is currently promoted in agricultural knowledge and innovation services (AKIS). To address these knowledge gaps, we undertook the first national-scale survey of sustainable soil management practices in the United Kingdom and complemented it with targeted interviews. We found high levels of awareness (>60%) and uptake (>30%) of most sustainable soil management practices among mixed and arable farmers. Importantly, 92% of respondents considered themselves to be practising sustainable soil management. However, our analysis shows that farmers combine practices in different ways. Not all these combinations correspond to the full set of regenerative agriculture principles of reduced soil disturbance, soil cover and crop diversity. To better understand the relationship between existing sustainable soil management practices in the United Kingdom and regenerative agriculture principles, we derive a “regenerative agriculture score” by allocating individual practices among the principles of regenerative agriculture. Farmers who self-report that they are managing soil sustainably tend to score more highly across all five principles. We further find that sustainable soil management messaging is fragmented and that few AKIS networks have sustainable soil management as their primary concern. Overall, our study finds that there are multiple understandings of sustainable soil management among UK farmers and land managers and that they do not correspond to regenerative agriculture principles in a straightforward way. This diversity and variety in sustainable soil management needs to be taken into account in future policy and research.

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Series: Soil use and management
ISSN: 0266-0032
ISSN-E: 1475-2743
ISSN-L: 0266-0032
Volume: In press
DOI: 10.1111/sum.12908
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 520 Other social sciences
Funding: This research study was supported by funding from Research England, the University of Sheffield and UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund on Transforming UK Food Systems (H3 Project: BB/V004719/1).
Copyright information: © 2023 The Authors. Soil Use and Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Society of Soil Science. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.