Adapting soils to the impacts of climate change such as erosion, salinity and reduced moisture content is imperative for a resilient agriculture sector. There is a wealth of knowledge among farmers all over the world on how to maintain healthy soils, from no-till farming and cover crops to the use of fertilizers and composting.
Climate impact on soil health
Soil is frequently discussed in the context of climate mitigation. Specifically the importance of soil carbon sequestration. However, healthy soil is also vital for food security. Soils provide … Read more
Climate impact on soil health
Soil is frequently discussed in the context of climate mitigation. Specifically the importance of soil carbon sequestration. However, healthy soil is also vital for food security. Soils provide the essential nutrients, water, oxygen and root support needed for plants to thrive. They also ensure good quality, high-yield crops. A strong soil structure, with an abundant and healthy soil fauna, supports key services such as water retention so important for drought resistance. It also reduces runoff which helps hold topsoil in place. Climate extremes of excessive heat, floods, heavy rain and winds cause eroded and saline soils leading to reduced productivity. Declining soil moisture is impacting the water cycle and increasing the need for irrigation. Soil improvement, for example soil moisture conservation, is viewed as a climate adaptation measure for both natural and managed ecosystems. Other appropriate adaptation options include those focused on increasing soil organic matter content and reducing soil compaction, erosion and salinization. Read less
Low-tech still going strong
Farmers are rising to the challenge by applying age-old, as well as innovative technologies to minimize soil disturbance and enhance soil quality. This can mean building shelterbelts, wind breaks or hedgerows to avoid soil erosion. Others … Read more
Low-tech still going strong
Farmers are rising to the challenge by applying age-old, as well as innovative technologies to minimize soil disturbance and enhance soil quality. This can mean building shelterbelts, wind breaks or hedgerows to avoid soil erosion. Others practice minimal or no-till farming, or else enrich the soil with nutrients, either with or without the use of agrochemicals. Cover crops grown to protect and enrich the soil rather than for harvesting, such as cereals, grasses and legumes, reduce vulnerability to soil erosion and nutrient loss. Meanwhile, organic fertilizers are experiencing a rapid market growth rate – projected as 6 percent a year up until 2030. Countries like Sri Lanka are on a mission to become the world’s first 100 percent organic food producer through their recent nation-wide ban on agrochemicals, such as fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. This sudden-ban approach and its impacts have been criticized. But it points to a growing awareness of the effects of fertilizers on soil depletion. Alternative fertilizer solutions range from low-tech solutions (including simple mixtures of neem, garlic and urine) and legume planting for nitrogen fixation to advanced technologies for adding nitrogen-fixating bacteria to roots. Another technique becoming increasingly popular in countries where fertilizers might be financially unattainable is microdosing. This is the application of small doses of fertilizer in the planting hole when sowing. This enables quicker root growth while maintaining nutrient and water use efficiency. It can also increase late-season drought resistance. Read less
Knowledge can be power when it comes to soils
Soil health is increasingly in the spotlight. Farmers are now applying various technologies for monitoring soil conditions such as moisture, temperature and salinity to understand the linkages between soil status and crop productivity. Although … Read more
Knowledge can be power when it comes to soils
Soil health is increasingly in the spotlight. Farmers are now applying various technologies for monitoring soil conditions such as moisture, temperature and salinity to understand the linkages between soil status and crop productivity. Although access to data does not always influence decision-making, it can help assess risk. Technologies include in situ sensors and probes, or drones and satellite imagery to capture data and alert farmers to changes in soil moisture content at an early stage. Such knowledge may also enable real-time adjustments to avoid excessive fertilization and irrigation. It may also help identify the most relevant soil improvement techniques. However, the most advanced technologies are not always the most accessible. Many smallholder farmers cannot afford new soil monitoring and enhancement technologies. And the digital divide among demographic groups and areas further limits access. More start-ups are focusing on bridging such barriers. They include Zenvus Technologies in Nigeria which helps farmers monitor soils, keep electronic farm diaries and access capital and insurance for their crops. Read less
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