Defra Secretary Michael Gove has said the UK will see the "fundamental eradication of soil fertility" because industrial farming has "damaged the earth".
Mr Gove, speaking at the parliamentary launch of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA), said the UK is 30 to 40 years away from the "eradication" of soil fertility in parts of the country.
The SSA collaboration has been created with an interest in soil health and an aim to improve it.
The group explains that the UK loses 2.2 million tonnes of "vitally important" topsoil each year from land.
Estimates put the cost to the economy at £45 million annually and some hillside agricultural areas can lose more than 100 tonnes per hectare per year.
“We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth,” Mr Gove explained. “Countries can withstand coups d’état, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility.
“If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil, you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that.”
He said the farming industry needed to be incentivised to tackle declining soil fertility and decline in biodiversity.
Mr Gove said that the SSA would hold the government to account on the issue of declining soil quality. “We are listening to you now and it’s critical that we do so,” he said.