|This is dirt.|
|Decreased soil quality leading to dispersion, sealing, and cracking. (http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/tillage/importance-of-soil-organic-matter/)|
One of the most productive places on the planet way back in the day (let's go back several thousand years to ~9000 BCE) was Mesopotamia also known as the Fertile Crescent. The domestication of plants and animals allowed for a civilization to develop where the hunter/gather lifestyle was replaced by farmer. New approaches to farming developed specifically the use of irrigation water instead of waiting for the gods to provide precipitation from the sky. Mesopotamia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This allowed for diversion of water to the cropland for improved production around 5500 BCE. However, this is where soil and Ag had their first dispute. The rivers contained salts that remained in the soil after evaporation. The accumulation of salts (aka salinization) in the soil destroyed soil quality by dispersing aggregates and decreasing infiltration. It also negatively affected plant production through severe osmotic imbalances (plant water uptake control). It is thought that this decrease in soil quality contributed to the downfall of the civilization in this area.
|Mollisol in California where a drainage ditch is causing severe erosion.|
It has been projected that by 2050, there will be more people on the planet than we will be able to feed. If Ag and soil continue to treat each other with disrespect, we are headed for a whole lot of trouble. More and more farmers are starting to see that soil is the foundation for their livelihood and cannot be ignored any longer. The transition away from the "take, take, take" and back to "give and take" is happening, but needs more help. To bring this back it will likely mean paying more for food. Farmers must make a living just as we all do. Current practices have made synthetic fertilizers cheap and readily available. This approach is not sustainable for the soil, which needs much more than nitrogen to thrive. In order to switch to practices that improve soil quality, Ag needs a little encouragement and support from the rest of us, primarily through our wallets. We know Ag and Soil can find themselves in a good place again, but we all need to be involved in this. Your food choices can help change practices and make these less expensive for farmers. For the sake of our civilization, Soil and Ag need to be friends again, so that soils and agriculture support each other.