Thursday, 22 February, 2001

World's Farmland in Trouble

I ran across this story last week, reporting that much of the world's farmland is in such poor condition that our production capacity could fall below what we need to support our population.  The report states that about 16 percent of the world's farmland is free of problems, with that percentage ranging from six percent in some parts of Asia, to about 30 percent in North America.  The report cites problems such as depletion of organic matter, chemical contamination, acidity, salinity, and poor drainage.

Depletion of organic matter is a direct result of not plowing plant debris back into the soil.  Chemical contamination results from the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Salinity is caused by excess irrigation, or poor irrigation practices in general.  Most of these problems could be largely eliminated by fixing the depletion of organic matter.  That would reduce the need for irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. 

I'm not trying to be alarmist or anything—we've a long way to go before our farmland won't support us.  But it's something to think about.