The Sarigua desert, west of Panama City, Panama, seen after overgrazing by livestock and the loss of topsoil through erosion. Photograph: Tomas Munita/AP
Without efforts to rebuild soil health, we could lose our ability to grow enough nutritious food to feed the planet’s population
The world grows 95% of its food in the uppermost layer of soil, making topsoil one of the most important components of our food system. But thanks to conventional farming practices, nearly half of the most productive soil has disappeared in the world in the last 150 years, threatening crop yields and contributing to nutrient pollution, dead zones and erosion. In the US alone, soil on cropland is eroding 10 times faster than it can be replenished.
If we continue to degrade the soil at the rate we are now, the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years, according to Maria-Helena Semedo of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water, absorb carbon, and feed people plunges. Not only that, but the food we do grow will probably be lower in vital nutrients.
See full Guardian Series on Farming and related:
- Killing the Soil that Feeds Us: Food, Profit & the Fatal Impact of Petro-Dependent Agriculture
- We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, because all human life depends on it | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian