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Soil degradation as a reason for inadequate human nutrition

Updated: Apr 25

Authors: R. Lal, 2009


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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