Why Soil Health Now?

The purpose of this Survey is to guide a workshop to develop a definition of soil health that can be used to develop policy, drive the research agenda and support soil managers.

Defra has an aspiration of sustainable soils by 2030[1]. In order to deliver this we must be able to maintain and produce healthy soils. Therefore there is considerable interest in Soil Health. Yet we have no widely recognised definition of a healthy soil or how to measure it across different land uses. The requirement to address these issues is all the more pressing if the work of Government e.g. the Environmental Audit Committee[2] and the 25 year plan for the natural environment are to be informed.   
The method for determining the key questions and indicators for soil health is as follows:

1. A representative sample of questions and indicators will be gathered by survey.

2. Questions and indicators gathered by survey will be collated and categorized by theme.

3. At the workshop break-out groups will be assigned a theme and will score the questions and indicators from scale of 1-10 (with 1 as definitely discard, 10 as definitely keep).  Questions and indicators will be retained on a basis of mean score.

4. The retained questions and indicators will be voted on by the whole meeting to determine the key questions and indicators in soil health.

5. A manuscript containing the key questions will be prepared for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.  The workshop outcomes will be disseminated to Defra, AHDB, NERC, BBSRC, Welsh Government and the EAC Soil Health Review.

This is based on Sutherland et al. Methods for collaboratively identifying research priorities and emerging issues in science and policy. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2011 2, 238-247. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2010.00083.x


The University of Reading will keep any information you supply in a secure place until July 2016, when it will be destroyed. Nothing that you tell us in this research project will be disclosed to anyone not directly involved in the project and all information will be treated in the strictest confidence.