Excess salt in the soil puts food security at risk: FAO – global issues

Soil salinization refers to excess levels of salt in the soil, which can inhibit plant growth and even be toxic to life. It can occur naturally, for example in deserts due to water shortage and extreme evaporation, or as a result of human activity.

FAO Highlights the problem in labeling World Soil Day On Friday, before the official celebration of Sunday.

Soil is in danger

“Soils are the basis of agriculture and the world’s farmers depend on soil to produce about 95 percent of the food we eat. However, our soils are vulnerable,” She said Xu Dongyu, the agency’s general manager, before the day that is organized around the theme Stop soil salinization and increase soil productivity.

Unsustainable agricultural practices and overexploitation of natural resources, as well as a growing global population, are putting increasing pressure on soils and causing alarming rates of soil degradation worldwide, the FAO said.

More than 833 million hectares of soil are already affected by salt, representing about nine percent of the world’s land area, or nearly four times the area of ​​India.

Soils affected by salt are found on all continents, in almost all climatic conditions, but more than two-thirds of them are in arid and semi-arid regions.

Some of the hardest-hit regions are located in Central Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and the Pacific.

Challenges in Uzbekistan

Located in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is the largest landlocked country in the world, which in turn is surrounded by other landlocked countries. More than half of the soil there is affected by salt, which makes it very difficult to grow productively.

Adyl Khujanov runs a farm in the village of Kyzylkesek located in the Karakalpakstan region of western Uzbekistan, which is considered to be the hottest and driest place in the country.

“I have been cultivating this land all my life and have seen many people from this area leave over the years due to the heat, dry weather and lack of water,” Tell FAO recently.

However, in other regions of the world, soil salinity is attributed to unsustainable human activities. These include excessive use of fertilizers, improper irrigation methods, poor quality water, and deforestation.

Learn new ways

FAO works with countries to support them in managing soil resources.

In Uzbekistan, the FAO Global Soil Partnership (GSP) is collaborating with scientists to develop climate-smart soil management practices so that crops thrive in salinity-affected regions.

“Thanks to the new methods that we have learned and adopted here to deal with climate change and severe water shortages, I can grow tomatoes, melons, pulses and forage crops to feed the animals,” said Mr. Khojanov.

Crucial reliable data

The Food and Agriculture Organization has also stressed the importance of generating reliable soil data, although it cautions that many countries face challenges in this area.

The agency has published Global Soil Laboratory Assessment Report, revealing that of the 142 countries surveyed, 55 percent lack sufficient capacity for soil analysis. Most of them are in Africa and Asia.

In launching the report, Mr. Ko stressed the need to invest in soil laboratories to provide reliable data that will guide sound decisions to ensure sustainable soil management and prevent degradation.

He said the EU’s recent adoption of the new soil strategy is a positive example, as it sets concrete and ambitious goals to improve soil health within and outside the bloc.

The FAO noted that the vital role of healthy soils in mitigating and adapting to climate change and in building resilience featured prominently at COP26 last month.

The agency called on all countries to urgently improve their information and capabilities by making stronger commitments to sustainable soil management.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo