Preface. Civilizations fail when their soils are ruined or eroded. One way conquerors made sure that those they enslaved during wars was to salt their land and burn their homes so they had nowhere to escape to. Erosion is an even larger nation killer, since not all soils are prone to salinity. These issues are also discussed in my post “Peak Soil”.
Farm Journal Editors (2020) Conservation Practices Reduce ‘Rings Of Death’. Agweb.com
Farming requires a high tolerance for dancing with nature. That’s especially true for North Dakota producers where 15% of cropland has reduced productivity due to soil salinity and sodicity issues. This makes soil layers dense, slow down soil water movement, limit root penetration and, ultimately, hurts yield.
Why Salt Shows Up. Salts and sodium generally make their way into soil from parent material (what soil is formed from) and groundwater discharge. When a soil has too much sodium and overall salt content, the soil’s clay particles repel each other and the ground becomes so hard it is difficult for plant roots to penetrate, and this lowers crop production. They’re hard to drive on when wet and very hard when dry. The solution? Gypsum, which improves soil structure, pore space and water infiltration. In this case it will come from a nonrenewable byproduct of coal-fired plants
Jonathan Watts. September 12, 2017. Third of Earth’s soil is acutely degraded due to agriculture. Fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year through intensive farming as demand for food increases, says UN-backed study. The Guardian.
The alarming decline, which is forecast to continue as demand for food and productive land increases, will add to the risks of conflicts such as those seen in Sudan and Chad.
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