Farmer and horticulturist Monty Don is leading a Soil Association appeal to support nature-friendly farming practices.
The Gardeners’ World host will feature this Sunday (28 August) on BBC Radio 4, speaking on behalf of the Soil Association – a charity he has supported for more than 25 years, having previously been its president.
The appeal is being broadcast to raise funds to support the Innovative Farmers Programme, which carries out research into sustainable and nature-friendly farming practices.
Mr Don, who has advocated for soil health throughout his career, said: “As a gardener and also a farmer I have relied on the soil to nourish me all my life.
“Soil sustains us, feeds us, nurtures our wildlife and captures carbon from the air. But all too often it is treated literally like dirt, and as a result, much of the UK’s soil is now in crisis.”
The Soil Association, through the Innovative Farmers Programme, helps farmers and growers to produce food in ways that are better for the environment and climate by partnering them with researchers in “field labs”.
The project is currently in its 10th year, having carried out more than 120 research projects involving more than 12,000 farmers, allowing them to trial different methods of farming to suit the nature and climate of their farms.
Natural pest control
A recently conducted field lab looked at using natural flower margins to attract predatory insects, as a natural form of crop pest control.
The Soil Association connected a group of farmers, including Frances Standen, from North Yorkshire, for the trial, where they could explore ways to encourage the predatory species and so reduce the need for chemical pesticides.
Mr Don said: “There are many more Soil Association field labs running across the country looking at a wide range of sustainable solutions, such as supporting farmers to farm with trees, and increasing the fertility of soil with earthworms.
“But there’s still so much more we must do to protect our soil. And if you donate to Soil Association to fund more field labs, a group of generous supporters will match your donation until the first £10,000 is raised.”