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article imagePoor state of the world’s soils revealed

By Tim Sandle     Sep 7, 2015 in Environment
Soils are essential for the world’s food system. Soil regulates water, carbon and nitrogen cycles. However, the state of many soils in the world is poor and action is needed as part of strategies to boost food production.
2015 is the United Nations International Year of Soils. According to the U.N.’s Food Agriculture Organization’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva: “Soils constitute the foundation of vegetation and agriculture. Forests need it to grow. We need it for food, feed, fiber, fuel and much more.”
Soils are composed of organic remains, clay and rock particles and are necessary to produce food and provide materials to make clothes. In addition, soils store and filter water and acts as a barrier against floods. Furthermore, soils host a quarter of the Earth’s biodiversity: organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.
The areas of the world where soil is sufficiently fertile are limited and declining, with 33 percent declared unsuitable. It is due to this importance that the global campaign to protect the world’s soils from the ravages of population movement and climate change was launched. Other factors leading to a loss of suitable soil include deforestation, bad agricultural practices and pollution. The degradation of soil can also itself be polluting. Degradation of peat soils, for example, releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
In the U.K. the campaign body Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) is asking the U.K. government to address the loss of organic material from soil. The body say it's critical that a new British government standard designed to maintain soil organic matter “requires only that land managers observe pre-existing regulations restricting the burning of Heather, grass and arable stubbles and the ploughing up of semi-natural grasslands.” Instead CaSE are lobbying for organic matter to be increased 20 percent over 20 years.
Another initiative is to return unsuitable soil to a suitable state for growing crops. This is termed agroecology. This is a slow process and requires careful study, with scientists needing to work alongside farmers. Several U.N. backed pilots are in place.
More about Soil, United Nations, Biodiversity, Crops, Agriculture
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