The world’s soils are getting degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices, the FAO said. Photo: Reuters
The world’s soils are getting degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices, the FAO said. Photo: Reuters

One-third of world’s soils are degraded: FAO

Unless new approaches are adopted, globally, arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only one-fourth of the level in 1960, said FAO

New Delhi: One- third of all soils in the world are degraded and unless new approaches are adopted, globally, arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only one-fourth of the level in 1960, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on occasion of World Soil Day.

Every year 5 December is celebrated as World Soil Day. FAO will observe 2015 as the International Year of Soils.

The world’s soils are getting degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices, the FAO said.

“It can take up to 1,000 years to form one centimetre of soil, and with 33 percent of all global soil resources degraded and human pressures increasing, critical limits are being reached that make stewardship an urgent matter," José Graziano da Silva, director general of FAO, said in a statement released on Thursday.

Healthy soils are critical for global food production, but we are not paying enough attention to this important silent ally, he added.

“At least a quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives underground, where, for example, the earthworm is a giant alongside tiny organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Such organisms, including plant roots, act as the primary agents driving nutrient cycling and help plants by improving nutrient intake, in turn supporting above-ground biodiversity as well," the FAO noted.

Better management can assure that those usually unnoticed organisms boost soil’s ability to absorb carbon and mitigate desertification, it added.

Soil health remains a serious concern for India. Indiscriminate and imbalanced use of fertilizers has led to soil deterioration and declining productivity, the Economic Survey 2013-14 observed in July.

Recognising this, the ministry of agriculture is running an ambitious scheme to issue soil health card to all 14 crore farm households in India. The government plans to issue 3 crore soil health cards in 2014-15, and 5.5 crore cards every year for the following two years, and set up 100 mobile soil testing laboratories.

However, it has allotted a paltry 156 crore for these schemes.

On Friday, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said that 5.69 crore soil health cards were issued to farmers till March 2013. States like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been active in issuing soil health cards to farmers the minister said.

The minister further said 1,206 soil testing laboratories have been set up across the country.

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