Friday, May 1, 2015

Soil Degradation due to Soil Salinization

    The world has been losing 2,000 hectares of farm soil every single day for about 20 years now due to soil salinization. The buildup of salt in the soil makes it harsher for crops to grow, decreasing yields and requiring more water. The areas affected are mostly in the Aral Sea Basin, the Indo-Gangetic Basin in India, Pakistan, the Yellow River Basin in China, Iraq, Australia, and California. It is estimated that an area the size of France (62 million hectares) is affected by soil salinization. The main way to get the salts out of the soil is by washing them with water, but even then the created salt water has to be removed, and the areas affected are in arid regions where water is scarce as it is. It is estimated that the world loses $27.3 billion per year in crop yield loss, not including the effects that the loss of food will have on the future of mankind. With the population trending towards doubling again by 2040, people will need more food to be able to handle the extra population, and it may not be available. 14% of the world’s land area is used in agriculture and there isn’t much left to replace what has been lost. A proposed solution is to irrigate plants in arid regions with brackish water or even seawater. While most land plants can’t handle using saltwater, some researchers are trying to introduce saltwater tolerant crops into humans’ diets, specifically halophytes, which with genetic engineering, can be used to supplement the world’s growing need for food while helping humanity be able to utilize the land lost to soil salinization.
--Colin McGill

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