The world is losing 2,000 hectares of farm soil daily to salt damage
For more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries have been degraded by salt, according to a study. Today an area the size of France is affected, about 62 million hectares (20%) of the world's irrigated lands, up from 45 million hectares in the early 1990s.
Salt-degradation occurs in arid and semi-arid regions where rainfall is too low to maintain regular percolation of rainwater through the soil and where irrigation is practiced without a natural or artificial drainage system. Irrigation practices without drainage management trigger the accumulation of salts in the root zone, affecting several soil properties and reducing productivity.
"To feed the world's anticipated nine billion people by 2050, and with little new productive land available, it's a case of all lands needed on deck," says principal author Manzoor Qadir, Assistant Director, Water and Human Development, at UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health. "We can't afford not to restore the productivity of salt-affected lands."
The study, "Economics of Salt-induced Land Degradation and Restoration,"is published Tuesday Oct. 28 in the UN Sustainable Development journal Natural Resources Forum. Zafar Adeel, Director of UNU-INWEH, notes the UN Food and Agriculture Organization projects a need to produce 70% more food by 2050, including a 50% rise in annual cereal production to about 3 billion tonnes.