OPINION: Soil biodiversity for the future

Ana Posas, FAO Agriculture Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean

A few days ago, the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) concluded with a historic pact: dozens of countries pledged to protect 30% of the land and sea surface by 2030 to preserve biodiversity, which represents an unprecedented achievement for our forests, our fauna, our seas, and for the soils we walk on.

Taking care of the life in soils allows us to maintain soil carbon (key to having better productions), maintain the humidity and water reserves of our territories, and therefore safeguard the balance of nature and achieve a better production of sustainable food.

There are more than 1,000 species of invertebrates in a single m2 of forest soil, and one gram of soil can harbor millions of living beings and several thousand species of bacteria.

But despite their immense strategic value, soils are under great threat, mainly because of unsustainable management practices, erosion, pollution, and urbanization.

FAO estimates that 14% of the planet’s degraded land is in Latin America and the Caribbean, reaching 150 million people. In Mesoamerica, the proportion rises to 26% of the territory.

The main causes of degradation are water erosion, intensive agrochemical applications and deforestation, which are evidenced by a reduction in vegetation cover, a decrease in fertility, pollution, and the impoverishment of crops.

We cannot stand by and let this happen. We need to promote respect for the biodiversity of our soils to ensure a future in which we can have access to adequate, sustainable, and healthy food production.

The FAO figures show that we can produce up to 58% more food through sustainable soil management.

For this reason, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has a series of projects focused on this topic.

This year, as part of a series of talks, we shared Colombia’s experience with aquatic plants extracted from the Ubaque lagoon, which has made it possible to reduce water pollution due to excess nutrients and, at the same time, provide organic matter to the producers.

In Mexico, Itson University’s COLMENA initiative has successfully preserved the microbial diversity associated with land-use change by reducing soil degradation. In Argentina, an experiment presented through the incorporation of bacteria and stubble management has improved the carbon balance of soils.

In Trinidad and Tobago, one study confirmed the importance of improving soil pH to improve cassava tubers’ fertility, yield, nutrition, and quality after harvest. In Brazil, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) shared its experience with organic nitrogen fixation bacteria, saving the country US$14 billion annually in soybean cultivation.

In Chile, the Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) has promoted the application of organic material of animal and vegetable origin in crops and fruit trees, reducing costs; and in Peru, the company BIOEM has promoted the use of biofertilizers created with a mixture of fungi, bacteria, and yeasts.

We should look closely at these and other successful examples that seek to safeguard soil biodiversity.

Safeguarding soil biodiversity today is the key to our future.

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  1. Roots
    January 12, 2023

    I love seeing the focus shift to soil conservation! No more gramazone killing to soil! We need to go back to our roots

  2. Time-X
    January 11, 2023

    If we are really serious about soil degradation we must first start with the careless practice of “MOUNTAIN TOP REMOVAL” and then work our way down to maintaining our waterways from upstream to the estuary. We do not have environmentalists here with in-depth knowledge and the passion to safeguard and preserve our environment. The title sounds nice but the job isn’t done. We still go around boasting of 365 rivers in Dominica. Really? Don’t make me laugh. As goes the soil so goes the “rivers.” Our leaders are not concerned about these issues – plain and simple. Many people in Dominica could be employed in the environmental protection field. This would beautify and enhance the appearance of our communities making it attractive to the eyes of passerby and tourists which would be a boost to the economy. I’m an environmentalist with passion for preserving our natural resources. Such projects would be easily funded with grants from different environmental agencies from abroad.

  3. Roger Burnett
    January 8, 2023

    This message is one that I can relate to. Its importance is above and beyond perceived climate change. It is something that we ourselves are responsible for and can do something about.

    Soil degradation is pandemic in the Caribbean, and Dominica is no exception. With only a shovel and wheelbarrow, earlier generations worked in sympathy with the land. But today’s backhoes and bulldozes know no such restraint. In the urge for “development” precious land is laid to waste.

    As I write, I look down on acres of land at Antrim that in earlier times was rich and productive. But for convenience and wishful gain, it was destroyed by a consortium of land owner, consultant, government and contractor. It will now take nature a million years to put right that which, in a matter of months, was done wrong.

    Those that drive the Imperial Highway are remined of this irremediable folly on a daily basis.

    • Time-X
      January 11, 2023

      So, let’s go back to the “Hunters and Gatherers” period. We won’t destroy one grain of soli. Time changes and so do men. Don’t forget, God did curse the ground when Adam sinned. But through His grace and mercy man was reaping a good harvest. Now again, man hasn’t learned to acknowledge the Almighty and be thankful. Instead, man continue to sin in ways never imagined. Thus our climate and our natural environments are indicators that the Creator of this beautiful world is given man a warning; and this may be his last. Man presents himself to have dominion over the earth and with the power to correct all of its ills. How about working to end world hunger, poverty and starvation? What about treating others with love in spite of our many differences? What about loving one another without the desire to control and degrade him? No. That’s not what the devil wants. End times prophesies tells of man being proud and lovers of self, pretentious and haters of the truth and God. Dooms Day coming

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