Don’t treat soil like dirt, says expert

Ecologist David Pimentel, professor emeritus at Cornell University, says farmers can increase their soil organic matter by 10 percent a year.

Unfortunately, too many treat their soil like dirt, he said. Depending on the region, topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than the rate of soil formation.

“Very few people care about the soil. Even among the farmers, some feel they can get by for 20 or 30 years raising crops on their soil, even though the level of the soil on their farms is decreasing.”

Pimentel made these observations in a paper published in the scientific journal Agriculture in 2013:

  • Agriculture accounts for three-quarters of erosion worldwide and other human activity for much of the rest.
  • It’s estimated 75 billion tons of fertile soil are lost from world farms each year.
  • Eighty percent of agricultural land suffers moderate to severe erosion.
  • The human population relies on soil-grown food for 99.7 per cent of its calories.
  • It’s estimated soil degradation could depress world food production by as much as 30 percent in the next 50 years.
  • Sixty percent of the world population is malnourished.
  • Erosion contributes to climate change and affects other ecosystems, such as when soil moves into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.