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Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition


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Soil degradation affects human nutrition and health through its adverse impacts on quantity and quality of food production. Decline in crops' yields and agronomic production exacerbate food-insecurity that currently affects 854 million people globally, and low concentration of protein and micronutrients (e. g., Zn, Fe, Se, B, I) aggravate malnutrition and hidden hunger that affects 3.7 billion people, especially children. Soil degradation reduces crop yields by increasing susceptibility to drought stress and elemental imbalance. Strategies include: improving water productivity, enhancing soil fertility and micronutrient availability, adopting no-till farming and conservation agriculture and adapting to climate change. There are also new innovations such as using remote sensing of plant nutritional stresses for targeted interventions, applying zeolites and nanoenhanced fertilizers and delivery systems, improving biological nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal inoculation, conserving and recycling (e. g., waste water) water using drip/sub-drip irrigation etc. Judiciously managed and properly restored, world soils have the capacity to grow adequate and nutritious food for present and future populations.
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Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition
R. Lal
Received: 17 November 2008 / Accepted: 2 January 2009 / Published online: 7 February 2009
#Springer Science + Business Media B.V. & International Society for Plant Pathology 2009
Abstract Soil degradation affects human nutrition and
health through its adverse impacts on quantity and quality
of food production. Decline in cropsyields and agronomic
production exacerbate food-insecurity that currently affects
854 million people globally, and low concentration of
protein and micronutrients (e.g., Zn, Fe, Se, B, I) aggravate
malnutrition and hidden hunger that affects 3.7 billion
people, especially children. Soil degradation reduces crop
yields by increasing susceptibility to drought stress and
elemental imbalance. Strategies include: improving water
productivity, enhancing soil fertility and micronutrient
availability, adopting no-till farming and conservation
agriculture and adapting to climate change. There are also
new innovations such as using remote sensing of plant
nutritional stresses for targeted interventions, applying zeolites
and nanoenhanced fertilizers and delivery systems, improving
biological nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal inoculation,
conserving and recycling (e.g., waste water) water using
drip/sub-drip irrigation etc. Judiciously managed and properly
restored, world soils have the capacity to grow adequate and
nutritious food for present and future populations.
Keywords Food security .Hidd en hunger .Desertification .
Soil quality .Sustainable agriculture
Soil is a three-dimensional natural body on Earths surface
that is essential to numerous ecosystem functions including
production of biomass and net primary productivity (NPP),
moderation of climate, purification of water, biodegradation
of pollutants, storage of water and plant nutrients and
recycling of elements. It is the essence of all terrestrial life.
Soil quality refers to capacity of the soil to perform several
of these ecosystem functions. Conversely, soil degradation
implies decline in the quality and capacity of soil through
natural or anthropogenic perturbations. In other words, soil
degradation refers to diminution of soils current or
potential capacity to perform ecosystem functions, notably
the production of food, feed and fiber as a result of one or
more degradation processes. Principal soil degradation
processes include physical (e.g., decline in soil structure,
crusting, compaction, accelerated erosion), chemical (e.g.,
nutrient depletion, elemental imbalance, acidification, sali-
nization) and biological (e.g., depletion of soil organic
mater (SOM), reduction in the activity and species diversity
of soil microorganisms) (Lal 1993,1997).
Food security implies physical, social and economic
access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food by all people at
all times to meet their dietary and food preferences for an
active and healthy life (FAO 1996). Food security has four
distinct components: (a) food production through agronomic
management of soil resources, (b) stability of food production
and availability at all times, (c) food access through economic
capacity of household or community, and (d) food safety
through nutritious and biological quality (Schmidhuber and
Tubiello 2007;Moyo2007). In this regard, a sustainable
food production/agronomic system is the one that: (a)
maintains or enhances quality of soil resources, (b) provides
sufficient, accessible, safe and nutritious food supply, and (c)
creates adequate, economic and social rewards to all
members of the society.
Global estimates of the extent and severity of soil
degradation and vulnerability to degradation processes are
Food Sec. (2009) 1:4557
DOI 10.1007/s12571-009-0009-z
R. Lal (*)
Carbon Management and Sequestration Center,
The Ohio State University,
Columbus, OH 43210, USA
alarming (Oldeman 1994; Dejoux 2001; Kaiser 2004; Reich
and Eswaran 2004). However, information about the cause
effect relationship, linking soil degradation to agronomic/
food production and its nutritional quality, is scanty
especially for soils and crops of Sub-Saharan Africa
(SSA) and South Asia (SA) where the problem is most
severe. Soil degradation impacts agronomic productivity
through its adverse effects on availability/imbalance of
plant nutrients and water. Therefore, the adverse impacts
are easily masked by application of fertilizers and use of
supplemental irrigation, and are more severe in soil
managed by resource-poor farmers who do not use
chemical fertilizers, soil amendments or supplemental
irrigation. Soil degradation is caused by biophysical, social,
economic and policy factors. Drechsel et al. (2001a,b)
indicated a strong relationship between increase in rural
population density in SSA and decline in soil nitrogen (N)
and phosphorus (P) reserves. Bugri (2008) indicated that
poor agricultural production in Ghana, West Africa, was
more due to non-tenurial factors (e.g., poor soil fertility,
inadequate and unreliable rainfall and excessive tree
cutting) that also hurt social and economic parameters than
land tenure.
The state of food security
Similar to the food crisis that occurred during the 1960s,
there are alarming reports of the increasing vulnerability of
large population to hunger and malnutrition. (FAO 2004,
2005,2007; Magdoff 2004; Lobell et al. 2008; Anonymous
2008; Koning et al. 2008). There are also dire warnings of
even bigger challenges of food insecurity by 2025 (FAO
2005; Rosegrant et al. 2000) and 2050 when the present
population of 6.7 billion is projected to reach 9.5 billion
before it stabilizes at about 10 billion by the end of the
twenty-first century. There are 854 million food-insecure
people globally, of which 70% live in Asia, predominantly
in India and China (Borlaug 2007; Cakmak 2002). In
addition, about 3.7 billion people globally suffer from Fe
and Zn deficiencies (Welch and Graham 2004,2005;
Graham et al. 2001). It is widely recognized that food
security will remain a major global concern throughout the
twenty-first century (Rosegrant and Cline 2003), and the
Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger by half by
2015 will not be met (Bruinsma 2003a,b). Food security
has also been linked to national security (Falcon and Naylor
2005), and global peace and political stability (Lal 2008a,b,
2009). Increasing risks of food insecurity are also related to
increase in global energy demand which is expected to
increase by 50% by 2030 (Hightower and Pierce 2008),
decrease in worldwide per capita availability of arable land
from 0.40 ha in 1961 to 0.25 ha in 1999 (Horrigan et al.
2002), decreasing renewable fresh water supply (Barnett
et al. 2005), and the projected climate change (Parry et al.
2004; Rosenwzeig and Parry 1994). To eradicate hunger,
global food production must be increased by 2% year
(CNES 1999), and to eradicate malnutrition and hunger, soil
quality must be restored rapidly (by 2050 or sooner)
especially in developing countries.
The objective of this article is to describe the relationship
between soil degradation and food insecurity, and outline
technological options to enhance soil quality for advancing
global food security. The geographical focus of this article
is the developing countries of the tropics and subtropics
with emphasis on SSA and SA.
Soil degradation and food security
Soil and environmental sustainability are also essential to
human health (Melnick et al. 2005). Depletion of natural
resources and increasing competition for limited soil and
water resources have been related to malnutrition and basic
public health problems (McMichael et al. 2007). Soil
degradation affects food insecurity directly and indirectly
(Fig. 1). Direct effects are attributed to reduction in crop
yields and decline in their nutritional values (protein
content, micronutrients etc.). Indirect effects are primarily
attributed to reduction in use efficiency of inputs (e.g.,
fertilizer, irrigation water) and additional land area required
to compensate the loss of production. The loss of household
income is another indirect cause with adverse impact on
access to food. Other indirect effects of soil degradation are
those related to pollution of soil, air, and water with severe
impacts on human health (Pimentel et al. 2007). These
effects are exacerbated by environmental change because
the positive feedback between soil degradation and the
projected global warming may also adversely impact food
security (Fig. 2). Both direct and indirect effects of climate
change on food security can be positive or negative
depending on the geographic location and prevalent
climate. Positive effects include CO
fertilization and
increase in length of growing season among others. In
contrast, negative effects include increase in respiration
with the attendant decline in NPP, and increase in incidence
of pests and diseases. An important indirect effect of the
projected global warming on food security is through
increase in risks of soil degradation with the attendant
increases in losses of water and nutrients.
In addition to inadequate calorie intake, micronutrient
deficiencies are an important cause of morbidity and
mortality (Black 2003; Ezzati et al. 2002). Children are
especially vulnerable to deficiency in Zn (Sazawal et al.
2001) and vitamin A (Humphrey et al. 1992). Approxi-
mately 24% of all children in China suffer from deficiency
46 R. Lal
of Fe, while over 50% show sub-clinical levels of Zn
deficiency (Yang et al. 2007). Keshan and KaschinBeck
diseases occur in regions where the soils are low in Se
concentration (Yang et al. 2007). With rapid industrializa-
tion, soil pollution (e.g., Pb and As poisoning) is a severe
health concern in China and other emerging economies
(Chen 2007; Qi et al. 2007). Brick making, in rapidly
urbanizing India, annually consumes 1-m of topsoil from
0.5% to 0.7% of cropland area in the northern states of
Haryana and Punjab. Food crops grown on scalped soils are
Fig. 1 Interactive effects of
soil degradation on food
insecurity and human nutrition
and health
Fig. 2 Direct and indirect
effects of global warming on
food security in developing
Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition 47
deficient in micronutrients. Pimentel et al. (2007) attributed
prevalence of several human diseases to pollution of water,
air and soil. Wind erosion can cause serious health
problems by blowing soil particles and microbes into the
air, aggravating allergies and asthma. Following large-scale
deforestation, hookworm infection in Haiti increased from
0% to 12% of the population in 1990, and to 15% in 1996
(Lilley et al. 1997). Dry land salinity affecting 1.05 million
hectare (M ha) in southwest Australia, and with a potential risk
of spreading to 1.7 to 3.4 M ha, has severe human health
implications. Jardine et al. (2007) identified three specific
human health concerns of a salinized soilscape: (a) wind-
borne dust and respiratory health, (b) altered ecology of the
mosquito-borne disease, Ross River Virus, and (c) mental
health consequences. Indeed, there exists a strong link
between soil health and human health (Sing and Sing 2008).
Two predominant adverse effects of soil degradation and
global warming on food security are (a) soilwater
imbalance and specifically drought stress, and (b) nutrient
imbalance and specifically soil infertility.
Drought stress
Frequency, duration and intensity of drought are aggravated
by soil degradation (e.g., erosion by water and wind, soil
compaction, crusting, salinization) and projected climate
change. Arid and semi-arid regions, with seasonal and
highly variable/erratic precipitation, are prone to frequent
droughts. There are three types of droughts (Maybank et al.
1995) (a) meteorological drought occurs due to long-term
decline in precipitation (Street and Findlay 1981), (b)
hydrological drought refers to a prolonged period of decline
in surface runoff and fall in the ground water levels, and (c)
an agronomic drought implies reduction in soil moisture
availability during the growing season (Dracup et al. 1980).
While all three forms are inter-related, agronomic drought
is often observed sooner than meteorological and hydro-
logical droughts. Soil degradation affects agronomic
droughts through reduction in plant available water (PAW)
capacity due to: (a) decrease in rooting depth caused by
accelerated soil erosion, (b) reduction in soil organic carbon
(SOC) concentration and pool caused by removal of crop
residues and excessive/uncontrolled grazing along with
biomass burning, (c) decline in soil aggregation and stability
by excessive tillage and residue removal leading to crusting,
compaction, reduction in infiltration rate, and increase in
losses by surface runoff, and (d) reduction in activity and
species diversity of soil fauna (e.g. earthworms, termites)
along with decline in volume and continuity of biopores.
Soil degradation leading to decline in water infiltration
capacity in conjunction with climate change, leading to
increase in frequency of extreme events (e.g. intense
rainstorms), can also lead to inundation and anaerobiosis.
Yields of upland crops (e.g. corn, cowpeas, cassava, beans,
sorghum, millet) are adversely affected by prolonged
inundation and lack of oxygen in the root zone.
Soil infertility
Nutrient imbalance, caused by deficiency of some and
toxicity owing to excess of others, is a principal cause of
yield decline in degraded/desertified soils. Those prone to
deficiency include both macro nutrients (e.g. N, P, K, Ca,
Mg, S) and micro elements (e.g. Zn, Cu, Mo, B, Se) and
those prone to toxicity have excess Al, Mn, As, and Fe.
Nutrient deficit is caused by prevalence of extractive
farming practices including removal of crop residues, lack
of or low rate of application of inorganic fertilizers and
organic amendments, excessive and uncontrolled grazing
etc. Nutrient depletion is exacerbated by accelerated erosion
(Stocking 2003), which also has strong adverse impacts on
crop yields and agronomic production such as in SSA (Lal
1995). In addition to land area affected by accelerated
erosion, it is estimated that 95 M ha of arable land in Africa
have reached such a state of degradation that only huge
investments could make them productive again. Nutrient
mining is worst in East and Central Africa and in the West
African Sahel (Anonymous 2006). Mining of soil nutrients
in Africa is estimated at annual depletion rates of 22 kg N,
2.5 kg P and 15 kg K per hectare of cultivated land over
the past 30 years since 1975 (Sanchez 2002; Henao
and Baanante 2006). This annual loss is equivalent to
US $4 billion in fertilizers (Sanchez and Swaminathan
2005). Nutrient mining is also a serious problem in SA in
general but India in particular. Annual rate of soil NPK
depletion is estimated at >80 kg ha
for the states of
Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, M.P., Haryana,
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar, Jaharkhand, Assam, Tripura and
Rajasthan. High rates (4080 kg ha
depletion are observed in most of northern India (Roy
2003). In addition to macronutrients, deficiency of Zn and
other micronutrients is also a serious problem in soils of SA
and SSA.
Opportunities for advancing food security through soil
While doomsayers expressed apprehension and pointed
fingers, agricultural scientists ushered in the Green Revolution
and saved hundreds of millions from starvation during the
1960s and 1970s (Evenson and Gollin 2003; Borlaug 2007).
Globally, the implementation of Green Revolution technol-
ogy increased average cereal yield from 1.2 t ha
in 1951 to
3.4 t ha
in 2008 (Ingram et al. 2008). In Europe, grain
yields also increased linearly between 1960 and 2005 (Ewert
48 R. Lal
et al. 2005). Despite impressive gains in crop yields and total
food grain production in SA and elsewhere around the world
during the second half of the twenty-first century, the Green
Revolution by-passed SSA. Crop yields in SSA have
stagnated at about 1 t ha
for cereals (e.g., sorghum, millet,
maize), 3 to 5 t ha
for roots and tubers (e.g., cassava, sweet
potato and yam) and 100 to 200 kg ha
for legumes (e.g.,
cowpeas), because of soil degradation caused by erosion,
nutrient mining, and depletion of the SOC pool. Adoption of
proven soil management technologies has a potential to
quadruple production of food crop staples in SSA and also
improve their nutritional quality. Globally, adoption of
recommended management practices (RMPs) could enhance
average cereal grain yields from 3.4 t ha
in 2008 to 4.2 t ha
in 2020 (Ingram et al. 2008).
Yet application of the Green Revolution technologies has
been a debatable issue for both biophysical (Postel 1999)
and social reasons (Shiva 1991). Environmental conse-
quences of agricultural intensification in India (Singh 2000)
and China (Thajun and Van Ranst 2005) must be addressed.
Furthermore, the problem is not with the Green Revolution
technology. Rather, it is its misuse and mismanagement,
which have created the environmental problems. It is over
fertilization, overuse of pesticides, over simplification of crop
rotations, excessive application of flood-based irrigation,
unnecessary plowing, complete removal of crop residues,
and uncontrolled communal grazing which have exacerbated
soil and environmental depredation. This problem lies in
using technology without wisdom(Lal 2007b).
Intensification vs. extensification
With global population expected to increase to 8.3 billion by
2030, per capita food consumption is also expected to increase
to 3,050 kcal day
(Eickhout et al. 2006). Consequently,
total cereal demand will increase by 718 million t in 2020,
and more than 80% (591 million t) of the required increase
in demand will come from developing countries (Rosegrant
1997). Most food increases in Asia and elsewhere, with
scarce arable land resources, will have to come from land
already in production. Land area will increase to 1,609 M ha
for arable land (7.7% increase compared to 1995 and 14.5%
increase compared with 1970) and remain at 3,416 M ha for
grazing land (no change compared to 1955 but 4.5% decline
compared with 1970) (Eickhout et al. 2006). Most of the
increase in agricultural land area will occur in South
America and SSA. Additional areas that can be brought into
production in Asia (between 1993 and 2020) are estimated to
be 0.8 M ha in China, 2.0 M ha in India and 1.2 M ha in
other South Asian countries and 1.2 M ha in Southeast Asia.
There will be a net decrease of 0.4 M ha in cropland area in
East Asia (excluding China) (Rosegrant 1997). The mean
ratio of expected production for 2020 relative to 1990 will be
1.57 for cereals, 1.77 for soybeans and 3.28 for roots and
tubers (Table 1). In comparison, the mean ratio of cultivated
land area in 2020 relative to 1990 will be merely 1.09 for
cereals, 1.14 for soybeans and 1.15 for roots and tubers
(Table 1). Therefore, additional production must come either
from intensification of land already in agriculture or from
restoration of degraded/desertifed soils.
Technological options to increase agronomic production
Productivity improvements can be made through plant
breeding, crop management, tillage methods, fertilizer
management, weed and pest control, water management,
nutrient management, tillage methods, and adaptation to
climate change. The most important options include judi-
cious management of water, macro- and micronutrients and
mulch tillage, and adaptation to climate change.
Improving water productivity
The overall objective is to reduce vulnerability to agronomic
drought (Barron et al. 2003) through an ecohydrological
approach that enhances use efficiency of the rain received,
and taking action beyond the desertification narrative (Slegers
and Stroosnijder 2008). Only 10% to 30% of the rainfall
received is used by crops (Falkenmark and Rockström 2004),
while 70% to 90% is lost. Therefore, water use by crops can
be improved by decreasing losses caused by surface runoff
and evaporation. Technologies to enhance water use by crops
include rainwater harvesting, conservation agriculture (CA),
and other measures to alleviate biophysical constraints to
attaining high yields (Rockström 2003; Rockström and
Falkenmark 2000). Growing sorghum and millet in clumps
can improve early season growth in dry areas, enhance grain
yields, and increase use efficiency of scarce rainwater.
Bandaru et al. (2006) observed that grain yields were
improved by clump planting by as much as 100% when
yields were in the 1 t ha
range and 25% to 50% when in
the 2 to 3 t ha
range. Productivity of the Asian ricewheat
Table 1 Expected ratio of crop production and cultivated land area in
2020 relative to those in 1990 (Evenson 1999; Cakmak 2002)
Crop Production Cultivated land area
Wheat 1.58 1.06
Maize 1.56 1.13
Rice 1.66 1.07
Other grains 1.48 1.09
Soybeans 1.77 1.14
Roots/tubers 3.28 1.15
Mean 1.89 1.11
Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition 49
system, which has stalled (Timsina and Conner 2001), can
also be greatly enhanced through management of nutrients
and water, and by improving use efficiency of input.
Water productivity (WP) is defined as the amount of
agricultural output (kilogram per hectare, $ per hectare) per
unit of water consumed or applied (Mutiro et al. 2006):
WA ð1Þ
Where WP is in kilogram per cubic hectare, Yis yield in
kilogram per hectare and WA is water applied in cubic meter
per hectare. About 90% of the populations in SSA rely
solely on rainfed agriculture for their livelihood (Mutiro
et al. 2006), where WP is as low as 0.18 to 1.33 kg m
water. There is a close link between food security and WP or
an efficient use of limited water resources. Uppugunduri
(2006) outlined the following strategies for sustainable
management of water resources in developing countries
(e.g., India), and to increase WP by producing more crop per
1. Data base: Strengthening the database with regards to
surface water inventories, ground water mapping,
vegetation cover, soil moisture regime, and aquifer
depletion/recharge using remote sensing, geographic
information systems (GIS), global positioning systems
(GPS), and variable rate technology (VRT)
2. Hydroclimate calendar: Preparing a hydroclimate cal-
endar by using the satellite-based, climate-related
information for use in planning of farm operations
3. Improving/restoring soil quality: Restoring degraded
soils especially with regards to soil structure, available
water capacity, soil fertility (N, P, K, Zn, S, B),
microbiological properties, and earthworm activity
4. Supplemental irrigation: Increasing area under supple-
mental irrigation, and using drip sub-irrigation and other
modern innovations, including the use of waste water
5. Conserving soil water: Improving yields of rainfed
crops through conserving and efficiently using soil
water by adopting CA and mulch farming and
6. Aerobic rice: Growing rice with direct seeding and
without continuous flooding and using a wider spacing
to enhance tillage.
Improvements in crop varieties and selection of appro-
priate species can also improve WP in drought-prone areas.
Condon et al. (2002) proposed the term intrinsic water-use
) to assess differences among cultivars or
species. It is defined as the ratio of the instantaneous rates
of CO
assimilation (A) and the transpiration (T) at the
stomata. Both Aand Tare the product of two factors:
stomatal conductance (g) to either CO
) or water (g
and concentration gradient of either CO
) or water
vapor (w
) between the air outside the leaf and the air
inside the leaf.
ðÞ ð2Þ
ðÞ ð3Þ
By subtraction, and re-arranging Eqs. 2and 3, it is possible
to calculate W
for cultivars or species (Eqs. 4and 5).
ðÞ½ ð4Þ
ðÞ ð5Þ
Where the factor 0.6 refers to the relative diffusivities of
and water vapor in air (Condon et al. 2002).
Improving nutrient management
Soil infertility owing to deficiency of essential plant
nutrients, is a major constraint affecting crop yields in
developing countries. It is estimated that as much as 50% of
the increase in crop yields worldwide during the twentieth
century was due to adoption of chemical fertilizers (Borlaug
and Dowswell 1994; Loneragan 1997). Fertilizers played a
major role in increasing agronomic production in Asia,
where the fertilizer input between 1969 and 1995 increased
from 20 to 145 kg ha
(Hossain and Singh 2000).
Among macronutrients, N is the most limiting factor to
enhancing crop yield (Eickhout et al. 2006). In addition to
N, productivity of the ricewheat system in Asia operates at
low yield because of inadequate supply of other nutrients
and inappropriate water use. Low productivity in SSA is to
a large extent attributable to soil infertility (Sanchez 2002).
Plant nutrients to replenish what is annually removed
from the soil to meet the global demand of food and fibers
are estimated at 230 million t (Vlek et al. 1997). Thus, it is
important to adopt a holistic approach based on the strategy
of integrated nutrient management (INM) (Gruhn et al.
2000). The INM strategy recognizes the importance of
nutrient recycling using crop residues and other biosolids
such as manure and compost, increasing biological N
fixation (BNF) through leguminous cover crops, using
mycorrhizal inoculation, and applying chemical fertilizers
and organic amendments. In this connection, establishing
links between livestock and land is very important (Naylor
et al. 2005). The INM strategy is also in accord with
organic farming (Macilwain 2004). Elements of organic
farming, nutrient recycling and liberal use of compost and
biosolids, are integral components of INM.
50 R. Lal
Enhancing micronutrients in soil
Agricultural produce must provide about 50 nutrients (e.g.,
vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, essential
fatty acids) essential to human health (Welch and Graham
2005). Because of the widespread problems of soil degrada-
tion and prevalence of extractive farming, cropping systems in
the developing countries cannot meet the nutritional needs of
society, especially with regard to microelements. A healthy
human diet must contain seven macrominerals (Na, K, Ca,
Mg, S, P, Cl) and 17 microelements (Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, I, F, B,
Se, Mo, Ni, Cr, Si, As, Li, Sn, V, Co) (Welch and Graham
2004). These elements must be supplied through soil,
including application of S and N (Soliman et al. 1992)and
Zn (Wijesundara et al. 1991). There are several strategies for
improving availability of macrominerals and microelements
in soil. These include (Welch and Graham 2004/2005):
1. Conducting soil tests for assessing fertility status and
using appropriately targeted interventions
2. Use of micronutrient fertilizers in appropriate formula-
tions and at desired rates based on soil tests (e.g., Zn,
Mo, Ni, Se, Si, Li, I), and supplying others through
organic amendments (e.g., Fe, Cu, Mn, B, Cr, V)
3. Adopting diversified cropping systems including indige-
nous food crops and
4. Growing microelement-dense varieties including geneti-
cally modified (GM) crops to improve bioavailability of
essential elements (Hirsch and Sussman 1999;Yangetal.
2007). Mapping soil micronutrients (White and Zasoski
1999) is essential to choosing appropriate management
strategies. Micronutrients status can also be used to
index soil quality (Erkossa et al. 2007) and to identify
strategies for its improvement.
Econutrition is another approach being proposed to enhance
nutritional values of agricultural produce. Deckelbaum et al.
(2006) defined econutrition as the interrelationship among
nutrition and human health, agriculture and food production,
environment health and economic development. The econu-
trition concept is based on the realization that there exists a
strong link between soil quality and human health (Fig. 3):
In accord with its significance to improving soil fertility,
INM in general but organic farming in particular can also
enhance vitamin and mineral contents of some food crops
(Warman and Harvard 1998). Biofortification in the soil
plant system is another approach to improve human
micronutrient nutrition.
Mulch farming and conservation agriculture
Adopting CA is another soil management approach proven
useful for sustaining soil quality. Converting to CA
comprises: (a) adopting no-till (NT) farming with minimal
or no soil disturbance, (b) maintaining crop residue mulch
on the soil surface. (c) Adopting complex/diverse crop
rotations, (d) following INM strategy to enhance soil
fertility, and (e) using integrated pest management (IPM)
techniques to eradicate weeds and control pests and
pathogens. Mulch farming and CA are improvements over
the traditional systems (Lal 1989), and are important to
improving food production when used also in conjunction
with planted fallows (Chalwe et al. 2002), and other RMPs.
Improved soil and water management, and increasing SOC
concentration and pool have been widely proven to enhance
productivity and carrying capacity even in the harsh
environments of SA and SSA (Kapkiyai et al. 1999; Wani
et al. 2003; Lal 2006a,b).
Despite its proven usefulness through 50 years of
research since the late 1950s, NT farming with the use of
crop residue mulch is practiced on hardly 100 M ha out
of a total cropland area of 1,500 M ha (Derpsch 2007).
There are several constraints to adopting NT farming in
developing countries, where this technology is most
needed (Lal 2007a). Crop residue mulch has numerous
advantages to soil and water conservation and improving
crop yields (Lal 1974,1975,1976; Lal et al. 1980;Beukert
et al. 2000). Therefore, removal of crop residues for
alternative uses has severe adverse impacts on soil quality
(Lal 2005), and mining of plant nutrients contained in it
(Singh et al. 2005). Competing uses of crop residues for
other purposes (e.g., feed, fuel) rather than as soil
amendment is a serious constraint. Lack of availability or
high cost of herbicides, no-till seeder and other inputs are
other factors. Further, it is a high-skill technique and
requires some training of land managers and extension
agents for its successful adoption.
Fig. 3 Link between soil degra-
dation and human health
(modified from Deckelbaum
et al. 2006)
Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition 51
Managing soils for adapting to climate change
Soil degradation and climate change are interlinked through
many parameters including the vegetation cover. For
example, there is a close correlation between vegetation
cover and soil degradation on the one hand, and vegetation
cover and the rainfall amount in the West African Sahel on
the other (Lotsch et al. 2003; Exlundh and Olsson 2003;
Van den Hurk et al. 2003). Reduction in vegetation cover,
due to increase in soil degradation and other anthropogenic
activities, has led to a substantial decrease in the amount of
rainfall over most of tropical Africa (Paeth 2004). The
decrease in rainfall may be exacerbated by the near-surface
warming due to the projected climate change. Reduction in
soil moisture, aggravated by erosion-induced soil degrada-
tion and decline in SOC pool and clay content, also plays a
major role in African and South Asian monsoon climates
(Paeth and Thamm 2007). High soil moisture levels favor
an abundant monsoon and vice versa (Douville et al. 2001).
Indian summer monsoon, Sahara/Sahel/West African mon-
soon and the Amazon rainforest are among the tipping
elements in Earths climate system and are prone to drastic
changes (Lenton et al. 2008). Asian monsoons are also
affected by the Asian soot cloud, that covers most of the
Indian Ocean, and is caused by the use of traditional biofuel
(e.g., animal dung, crop residues, wood) for cooking in SA
and SSA (Ramanathan et al. 2001; Venkataraman et al.
2005). Providing clean cooking fuel to rural populations in
SA and SSA is important to minimizing the soot cloud and
saving dung and crop residues for use as soil amendments.
It is likely that the projected climate change will lead to
drier conditions in the West African Sahel (Paeth and Stuck
2004). Attempts to improve agricultural production,
through deforestation and bringing new land under produc-
tion along with use of additional fertilizers and pesticides,
may exacerbate the risks of global warming (Tilman et al.
2001) and soil degradation (Cerri et al. 2007). The
projected climate change, along with increase in risks of
erosion and the attendant degradation and desertification,
will also adversely affect food production (FAO 2007).
There is a strong link between food security and climate
change (Sanchez 2000; Brown and Funk 2008). Jones and
Thornton (2003) estimated an annual reduction in maize
yield of 10% in Africa and Latin America by 2055.
Whereas most developed countries may experience increase
in agronomic production due to the climate change, most
developing countries are likely to experience a reduction in
production (Parry et al. 2004; Rosenwzeig and Parry 1994)
(Fig. 2). Fischer et al. (2005) estimated that projected
climate change may deepen current production and con-
sumption gaps between developed and developing worlds.
It is imperative, therefore, that adaptive strategies are in
place to mitigate the effects of climate change on soil
degradation and the attendant decline in food production so
that poor and vulnerable people are buffered against the
severe consequences.
Soil and crop management strategies to adapt to climate
change include adjustments in: (a) time of sowing, (b)
methods of seed bed preparations, (c) use of crop residues,
mulch and cover crops, (d) adoption of complex crop
rotations including agro-forestry and mixed farming, (e)
water management systems such as drainage or irrigation as
necessary, (f) time, rate formulations and mode of applica-
tion of fertilizers and amendments, and (g) choice of
species and varieties suitable for the changing climate.
Adaptation is crucial to survival.
Managing soil to address food security
and environmental issues
Soil degradation, by tightening its grip on the poverty trap,
is an important cause of food insecurity, malnutrition,
social/ethnic conflicts and civil political unrest. While the
adverse effects of soil degradation on food security can be
buffered somewhat by crop management involving GM
crops and biotechnology, there is no viable alternative to
soil quality restoration for alleviating malnutrition. Further-
more, the potential of improved varieties can only be
realized when grown under optimal soil and agronomic
management (Lal 2008a,b). Plant breeders also argue that
there is a greater challenge in tailoring cropping systems to
an environment that is still incompletely quantified, highly
heterogeneous, and unpredictable over time scales of days
to decades (Reynolds and Borlaug 2006). Soil scientists
have to work with plant breeders to improve nutrient
capture from soil by the genetic manipulation of crop plants
(Hirsch and Sussman 1999). Engineering plants with
improved micronutrient uptake can alleviate malnutrition
and hidden hunger.
In view of the increasing demand for food production
and improvements in its nutritional quality, there is a need
for change in the context of agricultural science (Evans
2005, Brklacich et al. 1991). It is equally important to
understand how sustainable agriculture can address both the
environmental concerns and human health issues (Horrigan
et al. 2002), diffuse and minimize pollution from agricul-
tural practices (Burkart 2007), predict changes in crop
productivity over time (Ewert et al. 2005) and adapt to
ecological systems (Giloli and Baumgärtner 2007)of
changing societal needs. Sustainable and efficient practices
must address global environmental impacts (Tilman 1999;
Singh 2000; Thajun and Van Ranst 2005). There is a need
for a paradigm shift in land husbandry (Gowing and Palmer
2008), and principles and practices of soil management.
Principles (Table 2) and sustainable practices (Table 3)of
52 R. Lal
Table 3 Principles and practices of maintaining healthy soils for
healthy life (adapted from Lal 2009)
Principles Practices/strategies
The biophysical processes of soil
degradation are driven by social,
economic and political forces
Involve farmers, land managers
and policy makers in the
decision making process of
restoring degraded soils
When people are poverty stricken,
desperate and hungry, they pass
on their suffering to the soil
Meet the basic necessities (food,
feed, fuel) before emphasizing the
need to improve the environment
and stewardship of land
Marginal soils, cultivated with
marginal inputs produce marginal
yields and support marginal and
unhealthy living
Cultivate the best soils by best
management practices to produce
the best yields to support a healthy
living while saving the land for
nature conservancy
It is not possible to take more out of
a soil than what is put in it without
degrading its quality
Maintain a positive/favorable C and
plant nutrient budgets in soils for
the desired level of agronomic
Plants cannot differentiate the
nutrients supplied through organic
manures or inorganic fertilizers, as
longas all essential nutrients are
available at the critical stages of
growth and in the quantities
Adopt INM strategy involving
nutrient recycling, BNF,
mycorrhizal inoculations, GM
varieties, and judicious use of
chemical fertilizers to supply
macronutrients and microelements
using nanoenhanced materials and
slow-release formulations
Even the elite varieties cannot
extract water and nutrients from
any soil where they do not exist
Integrate genetics and soil
management options to achieve the
desired impacts on food security
Soils are in part the cause and also
the victims of the global warming
Restore degraded soils and improve
SOC pools to off-set industrial
emissions through terrestrial
C sequestration with a potential of
3 Pg C year
Improving soil quality is essential to
sustainable development
Make soil management and
agricultural improvements as the
engine of economic development
is SA, SSA, and elsewhere
Traditional systems by themselves
are not adequate to meet the
growing demands of increasing
population with rising aspirations
Build upon the traditional
knowledge and use modern
innovations of nutrient
management, water productivity
improvement, disease suppressive
soils, nanoenhanced materials and
deliverance systems, satellite
imagery, and remote sensing
technologies, and precision
There is a strong historic link
between soil degradation and the
extinction of numerous ancient
civilizations (e.g., Mayans, Incas,
Mesopotamians, Indus)
Never ever take soils for granted
Table 2 Global soil resources and their characteristics in relation to
food security (adapted from Lal 2008a,b)
Soil resource Action plan
Soil resources are unequally
distributed among biomes and
geographic regions
Choose land use and farming
system on the basis of climatic,
physiographic and hydrologic
Most soils are prone to
degradation by land misuse
and soil mismanagement
Select cropping systems, tillage
methods, water conservation and
nutrient management options on
the basis of soil quality and
desired output
Soil erosion and erosion-induced
degradation depend on how
rather than whatcrops are
Adopt CA, mulch farming, cover
cropping, contour hedges of
perennials, and controlled
grazing considering low
tolerable level (<1 t ha
of erosion for soils of the tropics
Susceptibility to soil degradation
increases with increase in mean
annual temperature and decrease
in precipitation
Identify management systems
with cow cropping and grazing
intensity, and based on water
harvesting, ground water
recharge and multiple use of
scarce eater resources
Processes of soil degradation
operate at a faster rate than
those of restoration
Identify key soil properties and
processes and understand their
critical/threshold levels to avoid
irreversible soil degradation
Soil resilience depends on
inherent physical, chemical
and biological properties and
Identify land use and soil
management practices that will
maintain and enhance soils
ability to recover from
anthropogenic and natural
perturbations (e.g., positive C
and elemental/nutrient balance)
Soils are a non-renewable
resource over the human
time scale
Choose preventative measures for
erosion, salinization and SOC
depletion over restorative inputs
and rehabilitational techniques
Optimal levels of soil physical
properties and processes are
important to effectiveness of
chemical and biological
properties and processes
Improve soil structure and
optimize soil temperature and
moisture regimes to enhance
use efficiency of fertilizers and
realize the benefits of BNF,
mycorrhizal inoculation and
yield potential of GM crops
Soil structure depends on volume,
stability, and continuity of
retention and transmission pores
Promote activity of earth worms,
include cover crops with a deep
tap root system, and use
compost and organic
Soil productivity is constrained by
the weakest parameter/link (e.g.,
PAW, micronutrients, SOC
concentration, rooting depth)
Use INM to replace
macroelements, and
micronutrients harvested in
crops and animal products,
and adopt micronutrient-dense
Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition 53
soil management must be fine-tuned to site-specific needs
and the growing aspirations of rapidly increasing popula-
tions in developing countries.
Ecologically restored and judiciously managed, global
soil resources are adequate to meet the essential needs of
the present and future populations. Soil scientists, in
cooperation with agronomists and crop breeders, have the
technology to feed a population of 10 billion (Dyson 1999;
Reynolds and Borlaug 2006;Lal2006). Integrating
genetics and soil management options is essential to
achieving great impact of agricultural technology on food
production in harsh environments (Twomlow et al. 2008).
The adoption of this technology, however, depends on the
infrastructure, support services and political will. Innova-
tive technologies also exist to bring about a quantum jump
in food production, especially in SA and SSA (NRC 2008).
These technologies include the following:
1. Assessing by remote sensing critical plant nutritional
stresses for managing soil quality by using the
Normalized Difference Vegetation Index or NDVI
(Raun et al. 2001)
2. Using zerolites and nanoenhanced materials to enhance
use efficiency of fertilizers and improve plant-available
water capacity of the soil (Kijne 2001,2004), increase
the availability of micronutrients (e.g., Zn) (Oren and
Kaya 2006), and improve the quality of irrigation water
through wastewater treatment (Daubert et al. 2003)
3. Inoculating soils with endophytic bacteria that can increase
BNF capacity and improve soil fertility (Lodewykx et al.
4. Using microbial processes to increase P uptake (Jackobsen
et al. 2005), and improve drought tolerance in plants
(Marulanda et al. 2007) and increase tolerance to salinity
(Harmaoui et al. 2001) or irrigation with saline water
(Sarig et al. 1990)and
5. Conserving water in the root zone and enhancing the
efficiency of its use through improving soil structure
and quality by using organic amendments, NT and CA
(Rockström et al. 2007), and using drip irrigation and
drip sub-irrigation for decreasing losses and increasing
plant uptake (Wallace 2000; Aujla et al. 2005;
Vishwanathan et al. 2002).
The adverse effects of soil degradation on human health
and well being can be alleviated through strategies
involving soil restoration based on management of drought
stress, soil infertility, and deficiency of micro-elements.
Adaptation to climate change can minimize the adverse
impacts on food production while realizing potential
benefits related to CO
fertilization and lengthening of the
growing seasonin northern latitudes. With adoption of proven
management options, global soil resources are adequate to
meet food and nutritional needs of the present and future
population. In addition, there are also emerging innovative
technologies (e.g., remote sensing of plant stresses, nano-
enhanced materials, BNF, mycorrhizal inoculation, drip sub-
irrigation) with great potential for improving food production
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Rattan Lal, PhD is a professor of soil physics in the School of
Natural Resources and director of the Carbon Management and
Sequestration Center, FAES/OARDC at The Ohio State University. He
was a soil physicist for 18 years at the International Institute of
Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria. In Africa, he conducted long-
term experiments on land use, watershed management, methods of
deforestation, and agroforestry. He is a fellow of the Soil Science
Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Third World
Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of
Sciences, Soil and Water Conservation Society, and Indian Academy
of Agricultural Sciences. Dr. Lal is the recipient of the International
Soil Science Award, the Soil Science Applied Research Award, and
several others. He has authored and co-authored nearly 1,100 research
publications and nine books and had edited or co-edited 43 book.
Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition 57
... Issue) : 2022 nutrients to facilitate crop growth, and physical hold up for plants (Parikh and James, 2012). Depending on the complex interactions between soil processes, factors and causes it is susceptible to degradation (Lal, 2015) which is a major concern that leads to poor productivity as soil degradation implies a decline in soil quality (Lal, 2009). Soil organic matter (SOM) content, which responds efficiently to changes in soil management, tillage, and plant production, is the fundamental foundation (Baker et al., 2007). ...
Climatic disasters, like floods and landslides, are the major causes for the decline in soil fertility or soilorganic matter. Soil organic matter influences the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil; it isthe fundamental aspect that discloses soil health. Microorganisms in the soil environment participate acritical task in the enhancement of soil nutrients and soil fertility. Even though microbial bioinoculants arewidely studied for improving agriculture, the application of microbial consortium for the restoration oforganic matter or soil fertility in the flood and landslide depleted soils are yet to be exploited. The part ofliving biomass, i.e. soil microorganisms in restoring soil organic matter seems to be crucial, as microbes arethe major drivers in escalating organic matter in the soil. The living biomass recycles the nutrients in thesoil by utilizing the plant and animal litter in the soil and offers the crops adequate nutrients. Thus,microorganisms can force the accumulation of stable and chemically diverse soil organic matter in poorfertile soils. Exploring such vibrant, complex advantageous interactions among microorganisms seemsimperative to replenish organic matter exhausted soil. This article reviews the relevance of soil organicmatter, the role of soil microorganisms in improving soil organic matter and emphasizes the need forintensive research in raising beneficial microbiome for replenishing soil organic matter and thus to rejuvenatethe flood and landslide depleted soils to sustain agriculture.
... While the conceptualization of these systems was to capture the complexity of concerned systems, some other researchers started to identify the pathways through which agricultural intervention transitions. Some of these examples are agriculture-nutrition pathways (Gillespie et al., 2019), soil-crop-plant nutrition-human nutrition pathway (Lal, 2009), and soil-crop-plant nutrition-emission pathway (Sapkota et al., 2018). This continuity of advancement in system thinking and system modeling initiated a distinct departure from the reductionist agricultural research that predominantly concentrates on a handful of parameters for evaluating technological interventions (treatments). ...
Legume-based cropping systems (LCS) are considered instrumental to sustainable intensification in smallholder systems with multiple ecological, social, and economic benefits. Legumes are promising components in cereal-based cropping systems and can generate beneficial impacts on soil, animal., and human health. Such multifunctionality asks for contextualizing legumes and LCS from a system perspective involving several nexuses of soil, plant, feed, food, environment, market, nutrition, and health. System yield increment due to incorporation of legume has been observed in many sequential cropping systems. Legumes improve soil quality through biological nitrogen fixation and reduce chemical nitrogen (N) fertilizer application in the current and succeeding crops. It has been estimated that legume crops can fulfil 80%–90% of their N requirements during one crop season from this biological nitrogen fixation and transfer 0%–70% of this biologically fixed N to the succeeding crops. Legumes also utilize residual soil moisture of postrice fallow, require significantly less input, enhance the resilience of farming systems, promises a higher economic return, and ensure food and nutritional security of resource-poor farm families. Besides, legumes can reduce energy input requirements and mitigate greenhouse gases emissions from the cropping system. Legumes are essential components of livestock feed and can potentially improve the quantity and quality of livestock products. The LCS can also play a pivotal role in improving human health and nutrition, thus reducing malnutrition and morbidity. Profitable legume-based systems are being reported or designed, and value-added legumes are increasingly gaining popularity and share in the global food market. Summarily, legumes can be considered an important crop for ecological balance, poverty alleviation, and human nutrition. It is high time that we value and judge legumes in terms of their multifunctionality in the agricultural and food systems. We hypothesize that inviting a system perspective in understanding multiple pathways of legume-based systems might help us design and target LCS for smallholder systems.
... Soil degradation following land-use change and cultivation of native land may have direct effects on human health through exposure to the numerous pathogenic microorganisms inhabiting soil (Steffan et al., 2020). The degradation of agricultural soils may also adversely affect human nutrition and health through its impact on food quantity and quality, particularly due to (1) continuous and excessive use of agrochemicals (Lal, 2009;Moyer, 2020), and (2) negative impacts on clean water supplies in which healthy, organic matter-rich soils play a fundamental role (Kopittke et al., 2022). ...
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Soils have recently received attention in the policy area due to their various connections to climate change, human health and their key role in sustaining human societies in general. In this context, agricultural production and healthy nutritious food are linked to soil health and the diversity of their (micro-)biome, which depend on organic carbon materials as an energy and nutrient source. In this paper, we review the evidence showing that carbon-rich soils improve the resilience of human societies to pandemics and other crises. We indicate pathways for how the loss of soil carbon due to farming could be reversed by transformations within our food systems. Moreover, we argue that soil carbon has a strong role to play in enhancing environmental and human health in addition to mitigating and adapting to climate change. This multifaceted role requires a transdisciplinary dialogue and multi-stakeholder collaboration.
... Soil degradation has negative effect on the quantity and quality of food production. Decreases in crop yields and agronomy production severely threaten food security for humans (Lal, 2006;Lal, 2009). Therefore, effective farming practices to maintain or enhance SOC are crucial for the sustainable development of agriculture. ...
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Turning maize straw into biochar is useful for improving soil fertility and mitigating climate change. However, the difference between straw and straw-derived biochar on soil aggregate associated humic substances has not been sufficiently studied in brown earth soil. The objective of this study was to investigate how different straw management practices affect soil humic substances and aggregate-associated humic substances in the field. As such, an eight-year study (2013–2020) was conducted on brown earth in Northeast China. Three treatments were applied: 1) CK, in which only chemical fertilizer was applied every year; 2) BC, in which biochar was applied at a rate of 2.625 t ha ⁻¹ (the same rate of chemical fertilizer as that in the CK was applied); 3) SR, in which straw was returned at a rate of 7.5 t ha ⁻¹ (the same rate of chemical fertilizer as that in the CK was applied). Both biochar and straw improved soil aggregate stability that reflected by the mean weight diameter (MWD) and geometric mean diameter (GMD). Compared to the CK treatment, the BC treatment enhanced humic carbon (HMC) both in bulk soil and different aggregate fractions. Biochar decreased the humic acid carbon (HAC) in bulk soil compared to the initial content, but no differences were observed between BC and CK after the eight-year field experiment. All of the aggregate-associated HAC contents were significantly enhanced in response to BC treatment. SR was an effective way to improve soil organic carbon (SOC) and humic substances in bulk soil and aggregate fractions. SR had a relatively small effect on the relative proportions of the C functional groups. Solid-state ¹³ C cross-polarization magic-angle-spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (CPMAS-NMR) spectra of bulk soils revealed that biochar increased the proportion of aromatic C. The ratios of alkyl C/O-alkyl C, aromatic C/aliphatic C, and hydrophobic C/hydrophilic C increased in response to the BC treatment compared to the other treatments. Taken together, biochar amendment can enhance soil aggregate stability, aggregate-associated HMC and stability of SOC on the scale of an eight-year field experiment. Biochar could be an effective approach to sequestrate carbon and improve the quality of brown earth soil.
Highlight •Microbial population and enzyme activities were higher at panicle initiation stages of rice. •RSMI showed the modification of soil quality due to the combined effect of liquid bioformulation (LBF) and NPK-fertigation. •Combining LBF with NPK-fertigation had a more long-lasting effect on soil nutrient availability. •Substituting about half of RDF of NPK with LBF could bring about agronomic and ecological benefits.
Soil degradation is reaching alarming levels worldwide. More than 50% of all fertile, food‐producing soils globally are classified as degraded, with 25–40 billion tonnes being lost annually. This has significant implications for agronomic productivity, food and nutrition security, biodiversity, climate change, and economic well‐being. Soil degradation per se is a natural process, but it is being exacerbated by complex interactions between the biophysical, socioeconomic, and political factors operating in specific spatial and temporal contexts. This chapter sheds light on the degradation of the world's soil resources, nexus between soil degradation and changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, sustainable land management (SLM) interventions for building, restoring, and enhancing carbon (C) in degraded soils, the impact of enhanced SOC stocks on ecological resilience, and applicable modeling tools for estimating C stocks and changes resulting from SLM project activities. An array of proven SLM options, ranging from conservation agriculture (CA) and agro‐forestry to integrated nutrient management and grazing land management that countries can consider restoring and increase C in their degraded soils, has been presented. However, we argue that these should be objectively selected for scaling, considering the biophysical and socioeconomic contexts. The various SLM solutions can also offer multiple global benefits, including greenhouse gas (GHG), C, ecosystem services, and biodiversity benefits. For example, under CA, about 0.5–1.0 t C ha −1 yr −1 can be sequestered in the humid temperate areas, 0.2–0.5 t C ha −1 yr −1 in the humid tropics, and 0.1–0.2 t C ha −1 yr −1 in the semi‐arid zones. However, estimating and tracking these benefits can be quite complex. As such, using western Kenya as a case study, we have also illustrated the overall concept of integrating C modeling resources, particularly the Carbon Benefits Project (CBP) tools, to assist SLM project designers, managers, and evaluators in unraveling the associated complexities, as well as estimating and reporting the C and GHG benefits of projects where comprehensive field measurements are limited.
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Actualmente, la fuerte demanda agrícola y las malas prácticas han alterado el equilibrio natural del suelo, así como las interacciones físicas, químicas y biológicas, ocasionando su degradación del suelo; por tanto, los índices de calidad del suelo son considerados como herramientas para evaluar el estado de este sustrato en condiciones naturales o el utilizado para la producción agrícola. Una de las prácticas utilizadas para mitigar su degradación es el uso de enmiendas orgánicas, como el biochar, a nivel mundial se ha evaluado su adición como medio para mejorar la fertilidad del suelo y mitigar el cambio climático, además, sus efectos en parámetros biológicos del suelo han empezado a ser cada vez más relevantes, en conjunto con sus efectos sobre propiedades fisicoquímicas del suelo. El objetivo de este estudio fue, evaluar el uso de biochar como enmienda de suelo degradado, sobre microorganismos relacionados con la transformación del carbono, para esto, se tomaron muestras de suelo de una localidad agrícola de Sibaté, en el departamento de Cundinamarca-Colombia, en donde se realizó un ensayo con 1%, 3% y 5% de biochar, como tratamientos y el control negativo al cual no se le adicionó ninguna enmienda. A través de muestras de suelo se evaluaron parámetros fisicoquímicos, composición de microorganismos indicadores de transformaciones de carbono y diversidad de microorganismos heterótrofos, durante un periodo de un año de evolución del biochar en suelo degradado. Los resultados indicaron la disminución tanto del contenido de carbono orgánico como de materia orgánica, pero sin diferencias significativas entre los tratamientos y el control. Se evidenció la reducción del pH hasta el tercer muestreo y aumento hasta el cuarto muestreo. Así mismo, se evidenció la disminución de los nitratos del suelo hasta el tercer mes en los tratamientos y control, con un efecto tardío en el periodo de 9 meses finales los tratamientos aumentaron sus valores y se diferenciaron del control que permaneció constante en el año de evaluación. Se reporta, un cambio en la riqueza de morfotipos y mayor abundancia de un morfotipo presente en Agar nutritivo del tratamiento al 3%. Sin embargo, se presentó baja diversidad de microorganismos heterótrofos en Agar nutritivo para la muestra inicial, tratamientos y control. Por lo tanto, se espera que la adición de biochar como enmienda para el suelo, sea una opción a futuro para promover estrategias de mitigación de suelos degradados y mejorar el manejo agroindustrial de residuos.
The present investigation was carried out to assess the concentration of toxic metals (Pb, Cd, Cu, Zn, Cr and Ni) in soil at various sites where E-waste burning is carried out in an illegal way. E-waste processing activities can also cause severe pollution of highly toxic heavy metals in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem and even to the atmosphere. Atomic absorption spectrophotometer preceded by acid digestion was used to evaluate the concentration of the heavy metals in the samples. Heavy metals such as Cd, Cu, Zn, Ni, Pd, Cr, Ar, and Hg which were very high than the levels for which intervention is required. The scrap weighing site, the electronic waste dismantling site, and the burning site (where electrical cables are burnt to retrieve metals) recorded the highest levels of heavy metals. The environment of Moradabad City should be closely monitored by Government agencies on a routine basis, particularly for its metal content to safeguard the health of the population exposed to the air pollution due to e-waste burning activities. Therefore, immediate remediation of the contaminated soil is necessary to prevent the dissemination of heavy metals and potential ecological disaster IndexTerms-E-waste site Heavy metals Ecological risk Environmental pollution
Land rolling has become a popular practice in soybean and pulse production in the Northern Great Plains. The practice of land rolling is simply pulling a large-scale cylindrical roller over a cultivated field to push down stones and improve seed-to-soil contact. Many soybean farms in Manitoba are routinely rolled either immediately after seeding or at the very early stages of crop development. There has been considerable concern regarding the potential effects of land rolling on wind-induced soil loss, soil properties, and plant growth in soybean production. To address this concern, an on-farm research project was conducted at eight different field sites in the Red River Valley of southern Manitoba, Canada, in 2018 and 2019. Trials were established with rolled and non-rolled treatments arranged using a randomized complete block design. To examine the environmental and agronomic impacts of land rolling, data was collected to characterize wind-transported sediment (passive uni-directional samplers), soil properties (e.g., surface roughness and moisture content), yield, and plant growth parameters. Despite the land rolling reducing surface roughness the results showed no significant difference in the amount of collected wind-transported sediment between the two treatments. In addition, the particle size of the wind-transported sediment ranged between 0.002 and 0.1 mm suggesting that this size fraction is the most susceptible to wind erosion. Furthermore, there was a small, but significant, increase in soybean yield in the non-rolled treatment, despite having significantly lower volumetric soil moisture content. Overall, while land rolling reduced soil surface roughness and increased the wind erosion risk, it did not result in an increase in the amount of wind-transported soil loss. Lastly, within the Red River Valley the practice of land rolling to support higher soybean yield was not supported; however, the exact reasons for the small yield reduction is not fully understood.
The leading mode of 20th century West African rainfall variability represents a well-documented drought tendency in the Sahel and the Guinea Coast region from the 1960s onward. The following three modes describe an out-of-phase relationship between the Sahel Zone (SHZ) and the Guinea Coast region (GCR) to the south, with positive rainfall anomalies in GCR being associated with even more severe drought conditions in SHZ between 1970 and 1998. This West African dipole in rainfall (WDR) has been of high relevance to migration processes in recent decades over the entire subsaharan region. WDR is equally revealed in long-term observational data and global climate model output. There is a clear scale-dependence of the anticorrelation, SHZ rainfall changes being decoupled from GCR ones in the low-frequency range. It is found that the high pass filtered interannual WDR fluctuations are closely tied to Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs), particularly in the Gulf of Guinea. Soil moisture is not a dominant player in forcing the dipole anomalies. Sensitivity studies with a regional climate model support the physical link between tropical Atlantic SST and WDR. The simulated rainfall response to changing SST is non-linear and in the same order of magnitude as in the long-term observations. The SST impact accounts for up to 40% of total rainfall variability, particularly over the southernmost part of West Africa, and is statistically significant at the 1% level even with respect to the remarkable day-to-day variations. Prescribing late 21st century warmer tropical Atlantic SST as derived from global climate model experiments under increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, leads to increasing rainfall amount in GCR (around+300mm) and a reduction in freshwater supply in SHZ (around -150mm) during the July-August main rainy season. Thus, the SHZ-GCR contrast in rainfall amount may rise in the future, inducing ongoing north-to-south migrations in whole subsaharan West Africa.
The Future of Food: Elements of Integrated Food Security Strategy for South Africa and Food Security Status in Africa - Volume 101 - D. Moyo
The world population is expanding rapidly and will likely be 10 billion by the year 2050. Limited availability of additional arable land and water resources, and the declining trend in crop yields globally make food security a major challenge in the 21st century. According to the projections, food production on presently used land must be doubled in the next two decades to meet food demand of the growing world population. To achieve the required massive increase in food production, large enhancements in application of fertilizers and improvements of soil fertility are indispensable approaches. Presently, in many developing countries, poor soil fertility, low levels of available mineral nutrients in soil, improper nutrient management, along with the lack of plant genotypes having high tolerance to nutrient deficiencies or toxicities are major constraints contributing to food insecurity, malnutrition (i.e., micronutrient deficiencies) and ecosystem degradation. Plant nutrition research provides invaluable information highly useful in elimination of these constraints, and thus, sustaining food security and well-being of humans without harming the environment. The fact that at least 60% of cultivated soils have growth-limiting problems with mineral-nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, and about 50% of the world population suffers from micronutrient deficiencies make plant nutrition research a major promising area in meeting the global demand for sufficient food production with enhanced nutritional value in this millennium. Integration of plant nutrition research with plant genetics and molecular biology is indispensable in developing plant genotypes with high genetic ability to adapt to nutrient deficient and toxic soil conditions and to allocate more micronutrients into edible plant products such as cereal grains.
Combating soil degradation and desertification are among the most crucial aspects of forward-looking policy action to promote sustainable land use while improving household food security. Increasing population pressure coupled with the scarcity of suitable land for cultivation, have led to the reduction of traditional fallow periods by most farmers, with consequent land deterioration. A study is underway in Zambia to validate and adapt soil management techniques in order to arrive at farming systems that yield sustained food production with minimum depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources, and thus reducing the need for shifting cultivation. The comparative efficacy of 1 year improved fallow systems using 3 different leguminous tree species planted in pure stands to improve soil fertility and intercropped with maize to improve household food security by adding economic value to the fallow is being evaluated. Significant differences (P<0.05) were observed in the branches of Leucaena diversifolia, Cajanus cajan and Cassia siamea as influenced by maize, while the establishment and growth of maize were not significantly affected by any of the trees. L. diversifolia proved to be a better Nitrogen fixer compared to pigeon pea (C. cajan) and C. siamea. Lowest soil mineral Nitrogen concentrations were recorded in plots of Cassia both in sole and intercropped plots. Significantly higher (P<0.05) maize grain yields were obtained in plots where maize was intercropped with L. diversifolia (6.73 t/ha) compared to the control (sole maize) which yielded 4.22 t/ha, while maize grown in association with C. cajan yielded lowest (2.33 t/ha).The economic value of planted fallows was increased by intercropping trees with maize during the first year.
Balancing Water for Humans and Nature, authored by two of the world's leading experts on water management, examines water flows - the 'blood stream' of both nature and society - in terms of the crucial links, balances, conflicts and trade-offs between human and environmental needs. The authors argue that a sustainable future depends fundamentally on our ability to manage these trade-offs and encourage long-term resilience. They advocate an ecohydrological approach to land/water/environmental problems and advance a strong, reasoned argument for viewing precipitation as the gross fresh water resource, ultimately responsible for sustaining all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem services. This book makes the most coherent and holistic argument to date for a new ecological approach to understanding and managing water resources for the benefit of all. Basing their analysis on per capita needs for an acceptable nutritional diet, the authors analyse predictions of the amounts of water needed for global food production by 2050 and identify potential sources. Drawing on small-scale experiences in Africa and Asia, they also cover the vulnerability of the semi-arid tropics through a simplified model of green and blue water scarcity components. © Malin Falkenmark and Johan Rockström, 2004. All rights reserved.
This paper reviews food (especially cereal) production trends and prospects for the world and its main regions. Despite fears to the contrary, in recent years we have seen continued progress toward better methods of feeding humanity. Sub-Saharan Africa is the sole major exception. Looking to the future, this paper argues that the continuation of recent cereal yield trends should be sufficient to cope with most of the demographically driven expansion of cereal demand that will occur until the year 2025. However, because of an increasing degree of mismatch between the expansion of regional demand and the potential for supply, there will be a major expansion of world cereal (and noncereal food) trade. Other consequences for global agriculture arising from demographic growth include the need to use water much more efficiently and an even greater dependence on nitrogen fertilizers (e.g., South Asia). Farming everywhere will depend more on information-intensive agricultural management procedures. Moreover, despite continued general progress, there still will be a significant number of undernourished people in 2025. Signs of heightened harvest variability, especially in North America, are of serious concern. Thus, although future general food trends are likely to be positive, in some respects we also could be entering a more volatile world.