I love a good fact and one of my favourites is the fact that the UK loses 2.9m tonnes of topsoil every year.
I find that staggering - this is the farmer’s most precious resource that he is losing but the sediment and nitrate, phosphate and pesticide that can accompany it are a cost to our wildlife and a cost to anyone who pays a water bill as water companies have to pay for expensive filtration to try and reduce the problem.
Support from Countryfile
The problem was graphically illustrated on BBC’s Countryfile on Sunday 4 December with an aerial view of the Bristol Channel showing the sea at the channel mouth and estuary a dirty brown rather than a blue green, all caused by run off from the adjoining land.
The programme then went on to highlight one element of a possible solution to the problem with a visit to beef farmer Simon Rash who five years ago had created narrow buffer strips of trees to try and alleviate soil run off and who was now very pleased with the results.
How trees protect the land
Trees work because their canopies intercept rain before it reaches the ground and their roots improve the soil structure so that the water filters into the soil rather than running off into a water course. Water infiltration can be 60 times greater under trees than on adjoining pasture.
If you design your planting well the trees can provide a wealth of other benefits – shelter and shade for livestock, a future source of woodfuel or a source of pollen and nectar for bees.