Agricultural land degrading fast, study says

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A new study published in the journal Soil Use and Management attempts for the first time to measure the extent and severity of land degradation across the globe and concludes that 24% of the land area is degrading – often in very productive areas.

Reports physorg. According to the authors of the study, the exact cause of this degradation is not clear, but they cite ‘land management’ and ‘catastrophic natural phenomena’ as two likely candidates. I noticed while reading this article that all the areas cited as hardest hit (Sub-Saharan Africa, SE Asia, and China) are all places where agricultural efficiency is very low. Could these possibly be linked? Very likely, it seems.

This is very alarming, as topsoil is literally the foundation of human civilization. Not properly managing the soil from which we take our nutrition is akin to a lumberjack sawing a branch out from under himself. So obviously, better techniques of soil management need to be implemented in these areas pronto. One such technique that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves is no-till farming.

I would like to call on more governments and philanthropists to follow in the footsteps of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by investing in improved agricultural practices in low-productivity areas. The potential of biotechnology in this field is staggering. If you’ll permit me to wax futuristic, (One of my two majors is Biotechnology, so I’m prone to it) once scientists are able to genetically engineer plants to do more than have more vitamin A and be resistant to pests, there will be a massive economic boom in all areas of agriculture. Especially in those areas currently underdeveloped.

Why? Because we could potentially eliminate the need for crop rotation, put a tourniquet on soil degradation, and improve the yields and nutritional profile of the crop through genetic modification. But I’ll no doubt be writing several full-length posts ranting about that subject before long…


~ by ethmgallagher on March 24, 2009.

6 Responses to “Agricultural land degrading fast, study says”

  1. […] Idle Farmland Massive Carbon Sink Charles Abbott of Reuters reports: WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Conservation Reserve, which pays owners to idle fragile U.S. farmland, […]

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  5. One more comment!

    The world is facing an agricultural crisis of pandemic proportions: the catastrophic loss of topsoil. After covering the earth for thousands of years, the world’s topsoil is being lost at an alarming rate. In reality, for the past 100 years, our land has been more ‘mined’ than farmed. Historically farmers used the soil, depleted the soil and moved on. Even with current farming methods more topsoil disappears each year than is created.

    Such poor management of the topsoil is not the failure of a single farm or even a single region. It’s a problem of worldwide dimension.

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