Cranfield University academic Dr Jacqueline Hannam is to work with the Welsh Government to develop the first Soil Policy Statement for Wales.
Dr Hannam, President Elect of the British Society of Soil Science and Senior Lecturer in Pedology in the University's Soil Informatics group, will spend 12 months on part-time secondment to the Soil Policy & Agricultural Land Use Planning Unit at the Department for Climate Change.
Together, they will conduct an evidence review to better understand the current condition of soils in Wales, as well as future challenges facing Welsh soils managed under agriculture within the context of biodiversity loss and climate change. This information will then be used to set out the principles for the country's sustainable use of soils in the future.
Dr Hannam said: "Soil is essential for life but is a finite and fragile resource that requires careful, sustainable management.
"I am very much looking forward to working with the Welsh Government on this crucial soil policy statement to develop the evidence base, policy framework and national minimum standards that will help to maintain this important resource for future generations."
The soils policy statement will sit within existing and forthcoming Welsh Government policy frameworks as well as relevant external EU and global soil policies. It will align with the forthcoming Agriculture Bill and proposed new Sustainable Farming Scheme, and will therefore focus on agricultural soil as a major controllable factor influencing soil condition.
Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, said: "How a future Wales will look depends on the health of the soil we lay its roots. We rely on the science to guide our decision making to build a healthy, green and prosperous country, and look forward to Dr Hannam completing her research fellowship on the sustainability of our soil here in Wales. As well as being integral to our food supply and wildlife, soils are the largest terrestrial carbon pool in the planet and contain 25% of all living organisms. Dr Hannam's work will be integral in how we respond to the climate and nature crisis.
"Around 85% of the land area of Wales is used for agriculture. Agriculture also supports many of our communities in rural areas, with farming practices woven into the fabric of the landscape, community, and cultural heritage. Our aim is to develop a policy statement that is clear and unambiguous, yet flexible enough to account for the complexity of soil landscapes in Wales. It will reflect the diversity of farms and farmer behaviour, and ultimately set out the principles that will govern sustainable use of soils across Wales in the years to come, ensuring we are proud of the land we hand down to our future generations."