World Soil Day: FAO highlights threat of soil salinization to global food security


As he marks World Soil Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) underscored the threat that soil salinization poses to global food security and warned that many countries still lack adequate capacity for analysis. soils.

“Soil is the foundation of agriculture and the world’s farmers depend on the soil to produce about 95% of the food we consume,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said. “However, our soils are in danger”, he underlined in remarks before the event of December 5 on the theme: “Stop salinization of soils, increase soil productivity”.

Critical issues include:

  • Unsustainable agricultural practices and overexploitation of natural resources along with a growing population are putting increased pressure on soils and causing alarming rates of soil degradation globally.
  • Over 833 million hectares of soils worldwide are already affected by salt, as shown in Global map of soils affected by salt launched by FAO in October.
  • Estimates indicate that more than 10% of cultivated land is affected by salt, which represents a major risk to food security in the world.
  • Some of the worst affected regions are in Central Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and the Pacific.

The management of salt affected areas requires an integrated approach, encompassing sustainable management of soil, irrigation and drainage, selection of salt tolerant crops and plants, including halophytes, capable of growing well in such environments.

Collecting soil data and building sufficient capacity in soil laboratories in FAO member countries is essential to manage land-affected land resources and lay the foundation for digital agriculture in the future.

The Director-General underlined the importance of generating reliable soil data by announcing the official launch of the World Soil Laboratory Assessment Report. A joint effort of 241 laboratories in 142 countries, it is led by FAO Global Soil Partnership (GSP) and its Global Soil Laboratory Network (GLOSOLAN) made up of more than 760 laboratories around the world.

The report highlights the challenges, with 55 percent of the countries surveyed lacking adequate analytical capacities, including human resources, harmonization procedures and equipment. Many are unable to meet the national demand for soil testing in Africa, Asia and Eurasia.

Qu stressed the importance of continued investment in soil laboratories to provide reliable data on which sound decisions can be made to ensure sustainable soil management and prevent soil degradation. He added that the cost of inaction in maintaining and restoring healthy soils can have dramatic consequences for the UN’s sustainable development agenda.

FAO-led initiatives include a global soil information system (GloSIS) and a recently launched Global Soil Biodiversity Observatory, which will contribute to the global network for monitoring and forecasting soil health.

COP26 underscored the vital role of healthy soils in climate change mitigation and adaptation and in building resilience. And FAO called on all countries to urgently improve their soil information and capacities by making stronger commitments to sustainable soil management.

The recent adoption by the European Union (EU) of a new soil strategy is a positive example, setting concrete and ambitious targets to improve soil health inside and outside the Union. , said Qu.

As part of the celebrations of World Soil Day, prizes funded by Russia and Thailand are awarded for outstanding contributions in this field. The Russian Glinka Prize was awarded to soil scientist Lydie-Stella Koutika from the Republic of Congo, with over 40 years of experience in agroecosystem research. The King Bhumibol Prize of Thailand was awarded to the Nigerian Institute of Soil Sciences (NISS) for raising awareness of the importance of healthy soils and achievements in this field.

FAO’s work on soils

You can read more about FAO’s work on soils here, including the Global Soil Partnership (GSP), which helps develop collaboration and synergy between a range of stakeholders, from land users to policy makers. One of the key objectives of the SPG is to improve soil governance and promote sustainable soil management.

Among its main functions are: the regular production of the report on the state of soil resources in the world; the development of information and data on soils at all levels, supported by the development of digital soil mapping capacities in developing countries; the establishment of national soil information systems; the development of tools to improve soil health and prevent degradation and the intensification of good practices in the field; the creation and coordination of technical networks and advocacy for sustainable soil management.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

© Press release 2021

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