Healthy soils are critical for global food production, but we are not paying enough attention to this important ‘silent ally,’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director- General José Graziano da Silva said on the eve of World Soil Day, celebrated on December 5. The UN has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils.
The year was kicked off at the event in Rome, New York and Santiago de Chile, in an effort to raise awareness and promote more sustainable use of this critical resource. Healthy soils not only are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre and medical products but also are essential to our ecosystems, playing a key role in the carbon cycle, storing and filtering water, and improving resilience to floods and droughts.
Graziano da Silva said: “Today, we have over 805 million people facing hunger and malnutrition. The population growth will require an increase of about 60% in food production. As so much of our food depends on soils, it is easy to understand how important it is to keep them healthy and productive. Unfortunately, 33% of our global soil resources are under degradation, and human pressures on soils are reaching critical limits, reducing and sometimes eliminating essential soil functions.”
While FAO estimates that a third of all soils are degraded owing to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinisation, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices. Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person will in 2050 be only one-fourth of the level in 1960•