Skip to main content

Fertility of world's soil reaching peak that will threaten food supplies, scientists warn

Steve Connor,The Independent | May 14, 2015, 10.17 PM IST

Soil erosion and degradation, combined with the loss of agricultural land to urban sprawl and a booming global population, is one of the most pressing issues facing human security in the 21st century, they said.

The fertility of the world's soil is reaching a peak that will threaten global food supplies this century unless more is done to preserve the long-term viability of existing farmland, according to a group of leading scientists.

Soil erosion and degradation, combined with the loss of agricultural land to urban sprawl and a booming global population, is one of the most pressing issues facing human security in the 21st century, they said.

The "green revolution" of the past half century, where intensive farming based on agro-chemicals managed to boost food production significantly, will not be able to sustain the growing population this century without greater emphasis on soil preservation and fertility, they said. 

Much of the most productive cropland today is due to the "domestication" of wild soils brought about by modern farming practices. But these domesticated soils are seldom able to maintain the quality of their wild ancestral stock, the scientists write in a review of global soil fertility in the journal Science. 

"The efforts to improve the management and conservation of domesticated soils, and the preservation of portions of their remaining wild ancestral stock, will be among the most important challenges this century," said Ronald Amundson, professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Between 1970 and 2000, an area of agricultural land the size of Denmark became urbanised and in the next 20 years an area the size of Mongolia - some 1.5m sq km - will be swallowed up by city development, the scientists said. 

"Our most productive soils have already been exploited and that demand for food production will continue to increase," they said.

Dr Amundson said farming practices through the ages have caused the accelerated loss of soil through erosion and nutrient removal and this is one of the primary game-changers for the long-term, sustainable production of the soil - the "living epidermis" of the planet.

"Ever since humans developed agriculture, we've been transforming the planet and throwing the soil's nutrient cycle out of balance. Because the changes happen slowly, often taking two to three generations, people are not [aware] of the transformation," Dr. Amundson said.

One of the key threats to future food security is the supply of artificial soil fertilisers, specifically phosphorus and potassium, which have to be mined from reserves held in rocks and minerals. 

The US reserve of phosphorus, for example, accounts for only 1 or 2 per cent of the world's reserves, and it is due to be depleted within the next 20 or 30 years, he said.

"This could create political challenges and uncertainties. Morocco will soon be the largest source of phosphorus in the world, followed by China," Dr. Amundson said.

"These two countries will have a great deal of say in the distribution of those resources. Some people suggest we will see the emergence of a phosphorus cartel," he said. 

Many of the artificial nutrients added to soil, including nitrogen, become pollutants when washed away. They should be recycled in the same way that paper, glass, tin cans and plastics are recycled from domestic waste, Dr Amundson said. 

"We should be able to do this with soil. The nutrients lost can be captured, recycled and put back into the ground. We have the skill set to recycle a lot of nutrients, but the ultimate deciders are the people who create policy," he said. 

"It's not a scientific problem. It's a societal problem."

Popular posts from this blog


While "Flavor" is very subjective, and each country that grows mangoes is very nationalistic, these are the mango varieties that are the most sought after around the world because of sweetnesss (Brix) and demand.

The Chaunsa has a Brix rating in the 22 degree level which is unheard of!
Carabao claims to be the sweetest mango in the world and was able to register this in the Guiness book of world records.
Perhaps it is time for a GLOBAL taste test ???

In alphabetical order by Country....



Alphonso (mango)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alphonso (हापुस Haapoos in Marathi, હાફુસ in Gujarati, ಆಪೂಸ್ Aapoos in Kannada) is a mango cultivar that is considered by many[who?] to be one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. 

It has considerable shelf life of a week after it is ripe making it exportable. 

It is also one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in Kokan region of western India.

 It is in season April through May and the fruit wei…

INDIA 2016 : Mango production in state likely to take a hit this year

TNN | May 22, 2016, 12.32 PM IST

Mangaluru: Vagaries of nature is expected to take a toll on the production of King of Fruits - Mango - in Karnataka this year. A combination of failure of pre-monsoon showers at the flowering and growth stage and spike in temperature in mango growing belt of the state is expected to limit the total production of mango to an estimated 12 lakh tonnes in the current season as against 14 lakh tonnes in the last calendar year.

However, the good news for fruit lovers is that this could see price of mangoes across varieties decrease marginally by 2-3%. This is mainly on account of 'import' of the fruit from other mango-growing states in India, said M Kamalakshi Rajanna, chairperson, Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Ltd.

Karnataka is the third largest mango-growing state in India after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Inaugurating a two-day Vasanthotsava organized by Shivarama Karantha Pilikula Nisargadhama and the Corporation at P…

MEET MELANIA TRUMP: The 5'11" supermodel married to Donald Trump

Aly Weisman, INSIDER

Sep. 2, 2015, 3:28 PM 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

While Donald Trump loves to be the center of media attention, his third and current wife, Melania Trump, is a bit more camera shy.

The Slovenian-born model keeps a lower profile than her husband, doing philanthropy work, raising their son, working on a jewelry collection with QVC, and creating a $150-an-ounce caviar moisturizer.

With Trump on the campaign trail, Melania has stoically stood by his side.

But who exactly is Melania and where did she come from? Learn about Trump's other half here ...

Melania Knauss was born April 26, 1970, in Slovenia.


The 5'11" brunette began her modeling career at 16, and signed with a modeling agency in Milan at 18.

Chris Hondros/Newsmakers via Getty

She took a break from modeling to get her degree in design and architecture at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.



But after graduating, her modeling career took off and Me…