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Digging Deeper

Erosion of Topsoil a Growing Problem

Reprinted with permission from Soil & Mulch Producer News, May/June 2008 p. 13.

With the world gripped by a crisis in the costs and availability or basic foodstuffs, a new focus on the threats to the planet�s topsoil by unsustainable farming techniques and urban development has emerged, reported redstateupdate.net.

International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development released a report in April that estimated that �global cereal demand is projected to increase by 75% between 2000 and 2050 and global meat demand is expected to double.� The researchers found, however, that farming methods that emphasize increasing crop yields have �in some cases had negative consequences on environmental sustainability.� The report�s authors said that over 2.5 billion people are affected by �significant levels of land degradation.�

The United Nations has said that soil loss is a contributing factor to malnourishment in impoverished populations. The National Academy of Sciences reported that US topsoil is disappearing ten times faster than it is created through a chemical and biological process that takes years. Topsoil is created at a rate of one to two inches every one to two hundred years. David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington told the Seattle Post Intelligencer, �The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture.