“We take soil for granted. It’s [seen as] dirt. It’s just not seen as an issue,” says Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, in a tone more matter-of-fact than angry or rueful.

“It’s just not on anyone’s to-do list. You’d have thought the farming community would get it, because they’re dependent on it year on year, but I think the farmers haven’t got to grips with it either.”

For a clearly optimistic person, Browning paints a dispiriting picture. She understands there’s a clear urgency to getting this issue on our to-do list. According to the UN – which made 2015 the ...


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