World Agriculture

By EMMA JONES

World agriculture is proving to be an unsustainable endeavor.  The United States is losing soil quantity and soil quality. Places everywhere are using water in an unsustainable way in order to grow crops for grain and to feed livestock.  Chemical use and genetic modifications are used to increase yields.

Healthy soil is the basis for the production of crops, not only does it provide a stable base to support plant roots, soil also stores water and nutrients required for plant growth. Unfortunately,  intensive plowing and monocrop agriculture have caused wide-scale soil erosion. Erosion is the movement of soil by water, wind, or gravity. This process of course occurs naturally, but current agricultural methods have caused the rate of erosion to increase frighteningly fast.

The average rate of soil erosion on US cropland is seven tons per acre per year. In extreme cases, erosion can lead to desertification, a process which causes arid soil to become barren and incapable of sustaining plant growth for many years. Erosion also pollutes waterways with sediment, degrading aquatic ecosystems. The resulting damages and increased maintenance costs due to erosion amount to approximately $8 billion per year. If if that money was spent on sustainable agricultural techniques such as conservation tillage, crop rotation, and organic fertilization we could protect our valuable soil resources.

The most effective way to prevent erosion is to protect soil from rain and wind by covering it with plants and/or decaying organic matter. In industrial farms, this often isn’t done because of over tilling. Contour farming, strip farming, terracing, waterways, and windbreaks are also methods to prevent erosion. The government  can redirect the money they would be spending on fixing issues due to erosion to provide tax breaks to encourage farmers to use these sustainable practices.