We are running out of soil

We are running out of soil

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By Cristian Frers

Soil degradation is the direct consequence of its use by man, as a result of direct actions, such as agricultural, forestry, livestock, agrochemicals and irrigation, or indirect actions, such as industrial activities, waste disposal, transportation, among others. . Erosion, compaction, and increased salinity and acidity of the soil are the major problems related to its inappropriate management and could be directly related to food shortages in the near future, resulting in a profound imbalance of the productive system.

Soil is a natural resource that corresponds to the upper layer of the earth's crust. Contains water and nutrients that living things use. The soil is vital, since the human being depends on it for the production of food, the raising of animals, the planting of trees, obtaining water and some mineral resources, among other things. There are many kinds of soil. This is because the rocks, the climate, the vegetation vary from one place to another. It supports and nourishes the plants in their growth and conditions, therefore, the entire development of the ecosystem.

When a soil has been continuously used, it deteriorates, degrades, and ceases to possess and contribute its initial qualities. We can say that a soil is contaminated, when the original physical, chemical or biological characteristics have been altered in a negative way, due to the presence of components of a dangerous or harmful nature for the ecosystem. Then, the productivity that the soil had is totally or partially lost.

The soil is an entity of the environment, whose characteristics are the result of a long evolution until reaching a balance with natural conditions. And we must be clear that in these environmental conditions the action of human civilizations is not included. The soil is a component of the natural environment and as such should be considered as virgin soil, not exploited. It is evident that its continuous and abusive use by man has truncated its evolution and has negatively conditioned its properties. As a result the soil deteriorates, it degrades.

Soil degradation is the direct consequence of the use of the soil by man. Either as a result of direct actions, such as agriculture, forestry, livestock, agrochemicals and irrigation, or indirect actions, such as industrial activities, waste disposal, transportation, among other activities.

The potentially polluting activities of soils are very varied; accumulation of solid or liquid waste, emissions into the atmosphere, excessive or uncontrolled phytosanitary uses, among others.

Erosion, compaction, increased salinity and acidity of the soil are the major problems related to its improper management and could be directly related to food shortages in the near future, resulting in a profound imbalance of the productive system, if correct practices are not adopted.

The world's population exceeds 6,500 million inhabitants, forcing humanity to have a little more than a billion agricultural hectares. Areas with inadequate management significantly reduce their productive potential, which is why today we are working to renew and condition production techniques, to preserve natural resources in general and the soil in particular. It should be noted that resources are limited, and cannot be wasted. Between 50 and 700 million people could be forced to migrate for these same reasons in the next 40 years.

Although the continent most affected by desertification is Africa, in Latin America and the Caribbean around a quarter of its surface is covered by deserts and arid zones.

In South America, a desert stretches from the Pacific coast in southern Ecuador, through the Peruvian coast to northern Chile. In the interior of the continent, at between 3,000 and 4,500 meters of altitude, the Andean Altiplano encompasses the western part of Bolivia, northern Chile, southern Peru and northwestern Argentina.

In the northeast of Brazil there are semi-arid areas dominated by the tropical savannah. Large areas of Colombia and Venezuela are heavily degraded.

In Central America, there are arid zones in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, while erosion and water scarcity are intensifying in the eastern Caribbean. And most of Mexico is arid and semi-arid, particularly the north of the country.

Poverty and overexploitation and inappropriate land use degrade the soil, with the consequent loss of productivity.

The conservation of productive resources and the environment are the two basic requirements of the ecological variable of sustainable agriculture. One way to achieve this is through Agroecology.

Sustainable management of agroecosystems is defined by a balanced combination of technologies, policies and activities, based on economic principles and ecological considerations, in order to maintain or increase agricultural production at the levels necessary to satisfy the growing needs and aspirations of the population. global increase, but without degrading the environment.

Sustainable agriculture is one that, in the long term, contributes to improving environmental quality and the basic resources on which agriculture depends, satisfies the basic needs of fiber and human food, is economically viable and improves the quality of life of the producer and the whole society.

The agroecological approach considers agricultural ecosystems as the fundamental units of study; and in these systems, mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes, and socioeconomic relationships are investigated and analyzed as a whole. Thus, agroecological research is interested not only in maximizing the production of a particular component, but in optimizing the total agroecosystem.

This tends to refocus the emphasis in agricultural research beyond disciplinary considerations towards complex interactions between people, crops, soil, animals.

Keep in mind that decontamination processes are expensive, but if we take into account that the soil is a natural environment that provides us with multiple benefits, and that it takes thousands of years to form, we would have to think that everything we do for it soil benefit is little. Therefore, it would be convenient to establish a series of factors, by virtue of which, the soils are decontaminated. In other words, the dangerousness of the contamination will depend on effects such as the buffering power or the vulnerability of the soil to contamination.

One of the most important factors to assess is the extent of contamination, as well as the nature and extent to which the contaminants are concentrated. The nature of these is very important because depending on the danger they bring to the soil, it will become contaminated more or less quickly, and with greater or less depth.

In summary, it can be said that the management for the maintenance of the soils in their original state, preventing their contamination by excessive and abusive uses and cleaning and decontaminating those already deteriorated sites should be taken as one more branch of the conservation of the environment, perhaps less striking in the eyes of public opinion, but just as important as any other type of performance.

Cristian Frers - Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication

Video: Starting peppers from seed, how we do it different (June 2022).


  1. Doull

    I apologise, I can help nothing. I think, you will find the correct decision.

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