TREATING soil less violently and moving away from a ‘one-solution-fits-all’ approach to agriculture could help ensure food production can continue for future generations, according to Guy Singh-Watson, Riverford founder and organic farmer.

In a video rant to mark World Soil Day 2018 on Wednesday he said: “We’ve got 7.5 billion people on this planet, and we’re going to have 11 billion before too long. We are going to have to cultivate the soil. But we have to look after it better than we have done so it’s there for future generations as well."

Farming is inherently damaging to the soil, through ploughing that disrupts the structure and ecosystems within the soil, as well as adding artificial chemicals that kill biodiversity and beneficial bacteria.

He said:“We turn it over, we put the bugs that like to be on the top on the bottom, we expose the stuff that’s on the bottom to the sunshine. We drive over it with ten-tonne tractors and squeeze the life out of it. The way we treat the soil is a violent act.”

Mr Singh-Watson said moving to a more ecological way of farming, with more diversity and mixed farming systems, adding organic matter such as compost to the soil, and using perennial crops that don’t require re-cultivating every year, will all help soils recover.

“We’ve got to get away from a one-solution-fits-all approach to agriculture. We’ve got to get a lot smarter and not just plough because we can, or apply pesticides because we can, and take a more ecological approach to looking after our soils. We’ve got to look after these soils, or they’re not going to produce anything at all."

World Soil Day is a UN led campaign to highlight the importance of healthy soil and the role it plays.

Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere, reduces the risk of flooding by absorbing water, and delivers 95 per cent of world food supplies - but around one third of the world's soils are already degraded.

Environment minister Therese Coffey said: "Everybody has a role to play in looking after our soils and initiatives such as World Soil Day are vital in highlighting the environmental benefits that soil provides for us all.

"As we leave the European Union, we have the opportunity to reward farmers for the outcomes they provide by protecting this essential global resource."

Catchment Sensitive Farming provides advice on how to improve soil health, make better use of resources and help protect the environment.