Organic agriculture prevents salinization and soil erosion ― and it could save the world’s agriculture

In a world in which the availability of land per person is projected to fall, in 2050, to half or a quarter of what it was in 1960, if one thing is sure is that we can’t afford to lose any more land. Sadly, that’s exactly what is happening: globally, a 33% of all our once-fertile land is either moderately or severely degraded, 18% has become bare, and 2% is newly covered with water as a consequence of climate change, according to a 2015 report published by the FAO. Put simply: there’s not going to be enough soil to feed a growing population if we don’t start managing our soil better, now.

Graph from 2015's FAO report on global soil degradation.

As this chart taken from the FAO report illustrates, our situation is dire. Less than half of the world's soil is safe or improving. The rest is under moderate or severe degradation, or already degraded.

A good deal of why we are in this situation lies in the differences between organic and non-organic fertilisers. As we have covered elsewhere in this blog, the advantages of organic fertilisers are many, not only in increasing indirectly the availability of plant food in the soil (a shorthand term for ‘every single nutrient necessary’) but also in the final quality of the produce, the health of plants, and even their productivity. But now we can add another element to the list of differences between organic fertilisers and non-organic fertilisers: salt buildup. “Salinization may come about when irrigation releases salts already in the soil, or when irrigation water or mineral fertilization brings new salts to the land”, explains the report. And indeed, according to a team of researchers from Zhejiang University, in China, the application of chemical fertilisers increases the salinity of the soil, eventually reducing its fertility.

Think of using non-organic fertilisers as bombarding the crust of the soil with nutrients: it’s clear that that’s going to be unsustainable in the long run. In contrast, as the FAO states: “Organic sources of plant nutrients enhance soil fertility and improve soil structure, water retention and biological activity”. As with every other living thing, soil has got to be nurtured and built. And as organic agriculture activist Volkert Engelsman told to a forum of other expert in the FAO headquarters in Rome, back in 2015: “Organic may not be the only solution but it's the single best option I can think of.” Here at Grow-Mate, we agree, and it's why we strive to offer products for the organic gardener that are, at the same time, affordable and efficient. You can take a quick look at them here.

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