Soil salinization refers to excessive 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 lack of water and intense evaporation, or as a result of human activity.
FAO is highlighting the issue by marking World Soil Day on Friday, ahead of Sunday’s official commemoration.
Soils at risk
âSoil is the foundation of agriculture and the world’s farmers depend on the soil to produce about 95% of the food we eat. However, our soils are in danger â, declared Qu Dongyu, director general of the agency, ahead of the Day, organized around the theme of Stop soil salinization, increase soil productivity.
The FAO has said that unsustainable agricultural practices and overexploitation of natural resources, along with a growing world population, are putting increased pressure on soils and causing alarming rates of soil degradation around the world.
Over 833 million hectares of soils are already affected by salt, representing about nine percent of the world’s land surface, about four times the size of India.
Salt-affected soils are found on all continents and under almost all climatic conditions, but more than two-thirds are found in arid and semi-arid areas.
Some of the worst affected regions are in Central Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and the Pacific.
Challenges in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan, located in Central Asia, is the largest landlocked country in the world and in turn is surrounded by other landlocked nations. More than half of the soils there are affected by salt, which makes productive farming extremely difficult.
Adyl Khujanov runs a farm in the village of Kyzylkesek, located in the Karakalpakstan region of western Uzbekistan, which is considered the hottest and driest place in the country.
âI have farmed this land all my life and have seen so many people from this region move away over the years because of the heat, dry weather and water shortages,â he said recently. at FAO.
However, in other parts of the world, soil salinization is attributed to unsustainable human activities. These include excessive use of fertilizers, inappropriate irrigation methods, poor water quality and deforestation.
Learn new methods
FAO works with countries to help them manage soil resources.
In Uzbekistan, the FAO Global Soil Partnership (GSP) is working with scientists to develop climate-smart soil management practices so crops in salt-affected areas can thrive.
“Thanks to the new methods we have learned and adopted here to deal with climate change and severe water shortages, I can grow tomatoes, melons, legumes and fodder plants to feed the animals,” said M Khujanov.
Critical reliable data
FAO also stressed the importance of generating reliable soil data, while warning that many countries face challenges in this area.
The agency published the Global Soil Laboratory Assessment Report, which found that out of 142 countries surveyed, 55% do not have adequate capacity for soil analysis. Most are found in Africa and Asia.
At the launch of the report, Mr. Qu stressed the need to invest in soil laboratories to provide reliable data that will inform informed decisions to ensure sustainable soil management and prevent degradation.
He said that the recent adoption of a new soil strategy by the European Union (EU) is a positive example, setting concrete and ambitious goals to improve soil health inside and out. of the block.
FAO recalled that the vital role of healthy soils in climate change mitigation and adaptation and in building resilience featured prominently at COP26 last month.
The agency called on all countries to urgently improve their soil information and capacities by making stronger commitments to sustainable soil management.