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Study Uncovers Case for Soil Care Incentives

19 October 2010

NETHERLANDS - A new report on the costs and benefits of soil conservation highlights the benefits to society generally of supporting farmers to take care of the soil.

Soils fulfill many functions for human communities: apart from agricultural production, they also store water and carbon, are a reservoir of biodiversity, supply raw materials such as sand and clay, and of course provide the basis on which our buildings and roads are situated.

A new study from the Economics Unit of Wageningen University Research reveals that several degradation processes may threaten these functions, and in the Netherlands these include wind erosion, subsoil compaction and the decline of peat soils. Policies to counteract these threats must be based on a social cost-benefit analysis. This shows, quantifies and evaluates the positive and negative impact on society as a whole. There is still a dearth of knowledge on the economics of soil degradation and soil conservation.

LEI, part of Wageningen UR, has carried out such a study, in response to the discussion about a possible EU soil framework directive. Although there are insufficient data for a comprehensive assessment, the study shows that the cost of soil degradation – and therefore the benefit of doing something about it – is generally much larger to society than to the farmer. In other words, there is a good case for providing farmers with incentives to protect the soils they cultivate.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report, Costs and benefits of soil conservation; measures to counteract wind erosion, peat degradation and subsoil compaction, by clicking here.

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