Environment Earthy warning from CPRE

Soil, as vital to life as air and water, is under threat, the Council for the Protection of Rural England said yesterday. The warning came as towns and villages across the land celebrate the ancient tradition of Plough Day - the Monday after Twelfth Night - when since medieval times farm workers have begun spring ploughing.

Gregor Hutcheon, CPRE's rural affairs officer, said: "Soil and its many functions are under threat. Agricultural intensification, poor land management such as overgrazing or the grubbing up of hedgerows, industrial pollution and the irreversible loss of soil to urban development, are all taking their toll on the extent and quality of the soil resource in the English countryside."