Thursday, February 4, 2010

Topsoil could vanish in 60 years, says study

Fertile soil eroding faster than it can be replaced
Tom Young, BusinessGreen, 04 Feb 2010

Fertile soil is being lost faster than it can be replenished making it much harder to grow crops around the world, according to a study by the University of Sydney.

The study, reported in The Daily Telegraph, claims bad soil mismanagement, climate change and rising populations are leading to a decline in suitable farming soil.

An estimated 75 billion tonnes of soil is lost annually with more than 80 per cent of the world's farming land "moderately or severely eroded", the report found.

Soil is being lost in China 57 times faster than it can be replaced through natural processes, in Europe 17 times faster and in America 10 times faster.

The study said all suitable farming soil could vanish within 60 years if quick action was not taken, leading to a global food crisis.

John Crawford, professor of Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Sydney, who presented the study, said:

"It could be as little as 60 years and that is a scary figure because it is not obvious that we have time to reverse decline and still meet future demands for food," according to The Daily Telegraph.

Over-ploughing is one of the chief culprits because it leaves topsoil open to erosion by wind and rain.

David Motgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, advocates a wholesale change in farming practices to "no-till agriculture" , currently used by about five per cent of the world's farmers.

This method leaves crop stubble in the field to be mixed with the top layer of the soil and means less ploughing is needed.

But such methods can lead to lower thresholds, making it harder to feed the world's population.

Last year food prices rocketed as wheat stocks dropped to a 30-year low and countries started to bulk buy.

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