MEON Valley's MP has told the Government that more must be done to help restore soil health in Hampshire’s chalk downlands.

Speaking in the Environment Bill debate yesterday, Flick Drummond welcomed the legislation’s environmental improvement plan mentioning soil health and a commitment to achieve sustainable soil management by 2030.

However, she told MPs in the Commons, “In Meon Valley, the health of our chalk down land is of primary importance to agriculture and the environment. While we are encouraging farmers to plant more trees and hedges, it is important - especially for small farmers - that we support the productivity and health of pasture land through soil improvement and restoration.

“As I mentioned in a previous debate, 80% of our soil nationally is dead, so I am particularly interested in how we can promote soil health, which is vital to farm productivity and nature recovery generally. We have cut right back on pollutants we put into the ground, but there remains more we can do to promote healthy soil.”

Flick said she wanted to see a plan for all five of the UK's identified soil types to promote better health and recovery.

“Pasture land is a key component of this and is vital to farmers across Meon Valley, with many finding that soil can be regenerated through improved carbon capture, water infiltration, soil fertility and nutrient cycling. They see an increase in biodiversity, and we need to support them.

“In addition, healthier pasture lands lead to lower fertiliser and pesticide use, which can in turn benefit the health of our rivers.”

Flick added she welcomed clauses on river water abstraction limits, in particular for Hampshire’s world-famous chalk streams as there are two – the Meon and the Itchen - in her constituency.

“Chalk streams across the country are already in a shocking state of health,” she explained.

“The WWF report says that only 12 out of England’s 224 chalk streams are protected, and of those, only 15% are classed as adequately protected and meeting conservation objectives.

“I am pleased that both rivers in my constituency are among the few protected, but better management of pasture land will reduce the need for pesticides and fertilisers that run off to pollute rivers.”