Soil erosion destroys vital topsoil, the most productive layer of the soil profile for agricultural uses. Although soil is a renewable resource, it takes 1,000 years to generate just three centimetres of topsoil.
Globally, degraded agricultural land accounts for 52 percent, endangering global food supplies, increasing carbon emissions, and potentially creating mass migration. If existing rates of soil continue to deteriorate, this will lead to disastrous consequences.
What are the factors that contribute to topsoil erosion?
Soil degradation has been accelerated in recent decades by intensive farming techniques, most of which are human development propelled. These processes disrupt the topsoil and expose it to wind and water erosion, causing harm to the intricate systems beneath. Farming techniques must change now more than ever.
The main reasons are as follows:
- Deforestation is the practice of removing natural trees and replacing them with crops that do not necessarily hold fast to the soil
- Overgrazing is a problem created by extensive livestock production
- Agriculture-related activities such as mechanical tilling that cause soil compaction and erosion
- Industrialization such as monoculture, excessive use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers
- Over-harvesting of wood for fuel
- Flooding has caused the soil pores to saturate with water, leading to little to no oxygen.
Importance of Soil
- Soil is the foundation of nearly all life on Earth
It is a complex system that supports life by combining organic materials, minerals, gases, liquids, and living organisms. All life, including humans, depends on soil’s abundance of organic content. Without organic content in the form of humus-rich in living organisms and microbes, the soil is reduced to inert sand.
- Soil is the largest carbon sink in the world, after the oceans.
Soil with a high organic content captures and stores CO2. On the other hand, land plowed and left to dry up and die emits the same amount of CO2. We need soil rich in organic content that supports plant life to sequester the excessive carbon emissions from the past century.
- Soil is the world’s largest water-absorbent
Soil provides 90 percent of the water required for agriculture. It’s diversity is also essential for purifying water that seeps into the ground. Rich soils are crucial for ensuring adequate levels of groundwater and addressing the water crisis in many parts of the world. Healthy soil also helps prevent the devastating floods and droughts that plague many parts of the world.
- Soil also plays a vital role in keeping the air clean.
Soil microbes are capable of absorbing contaminants from the air. The soil’s trees, plants, bushes, and grasses are the Earth’s lungs, providing humans with oxygen and absorbing excess CO2.
- 95 percent of our food comes from valuable topsoil
Healthy soils provide plants with the nutrients, water, oxygen, and root support required to develop and thrive. Soils also act as a buffer, protecting sensitive plant roots from weather extremes.
Global food security is under threat
The world’s population will grow from seven billion to more than nine billion by 2050. Growing crops for food is becoming increasingly challenging as the layer of rich topsoil thins.
Crop production has increased substantially in recent decades due to intensive farming techniques, but this has had a significant detrimental impact on the environment and is unsustainable. Erosion, compaction, nutrient imbalance, pollution, acidification, waterlogging, loss of soil biodiversity, and increasing salinity have all impacted the soil throughout the world, diminishing its ability to support plant life and yield food. In reality, as a result of this, agricultural productivity is already falling, posing a danger to world food security.
The global food supply appears vulnerable without urgently changing farming methods and finding solutions to maintain the soil.
How to prevent topsoil erosion?
- Policies to safeguard the environment against unsustainable practices are required. Individuals should exercise their rights by pressuring the government to prioritize this.
- Establish agricultural policies that safeguard our soils and encourage farmers in their efforts to do so.
- Reforestation to aid in soil conservation.
- Altering our eating habits and transitioning towards a plant-based diet to help make a difference.
Save Soil Movement
Save soil is a global movement that aims to mobilize and demonstrate citizen support across countries and encourage governments to start policy-driven action to revive soil and prevent future degradation. The movement will strive to reach 3.5 billion individuals or 60% of the world’s voters. It seeks to influence national policies in 193 countries so that soil organic content may be increased and maintained at a minimum of 3-6%.