World Soil and Nutritional Degradation
Soil is a natural body that consists of several layers of minerals that differ in texture, structure, consistency, and color; with various chemical, biological and other characteristics. It is known as the loose covering of find rock particles that covers the face of the earth. Soil is considered the end product of climate, organisms, parent materials (such as original minerals), and time.
Soil is mainly composed of broken particles which have been altered by chemical and mechanical processes that include weathering with associated erosion. In simple terms, soil is commonly considered “the earth” or “dirt.”
Soil plays an important role in the life support system of the planet. It provides crops with root anchorage, water and nutrients. The soil is home to a range of microorganisms that fix nitrogen and decompose organic matter, along with armies of small animals such as earthworms, termites and beetles.
Some Important Functions of Soil
- Food and other biomass production
- Environmental storage, filtering, and transformation
- Biological habitat and gene pool
- Source of raw materials
- Physical and cultural heritage
- Platform for man-made structures such as buildings and highways
The existence of soil is always threatened by degradation due to salinity, erosion, contamination, and other end products of soil mismanagement. About 17% of our land surface has already been badly degraded as a result of over-exploitation and excessive grazing. Inappropriate clearing techniques and unsuitable land use practices have resulted in severe nutrient declines, water and wind erosion, compaction and salinization. The affected land area is growing every year.
Such soil degradation leads to decreases in productivity and it has affected suitable lands that were taken into cultivation due to population pressure. Soil cultivation results in a decline in fertility. This means that part of the nutrients absorbed by plants is removed during harvesting.
Micronutrient deficiency is a physiological plant disorder which occurs when a micronutrient is deficient in the soil in which a plant grows. It also represents a human physiological disorder which occurs when a person’s diet does not contain the required nutrients and/or when illnesses (such as diarrhea or malaria) cause rapid loss of nutrients through feces or vomit. Some of the best-known trace mineral deficiencies include: boron deficiency, calcium deficiency, iron deficiency, magnesium deficiency, and manganese deficiency.
Micronutrient deficiency is one of the most pervasive and dangerous health conditions to hit the 21st century. It is widely considered to be the root of several chronic health condition and diseases. Many people believe that such deficiencies exist only in Third World countries; on the contrary, micronutrient deficiency is a global pandemic.
Some Facts You Need to Know
1. According to the United States Department of Agriculture; 9 out of 10 Americans are deficient in potassium, 8 out of 10 are deficient in vitamin E, 7 out of 10 are deficient in calcium, and fully half of Americans are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium.
2. As early as 1936, scientists began to recognize that the land was lacking in micronutrients, causing over 99% of the American people to be deficient in essential minerals.
3. In 2003, News Canada reported that fruits and vegetables contain far fewer nutrients than they did 50 years before then. Potatoes, for example, had lost 100% of their vitamin A content, 57% of vitamin C and iron, and 28% of calcium. The report examined data from the US Department of Agriculture involving vegetable quality.
4. Mineral-deficient soil grows mineral-deficient foods. Some animals that we eat are being fed with these greens. Therefore, the meat you buy is likely to have lower mineral content than it should have. Sick soil means sick plants, sick animals, and sick people.
The truth is; large parts of the world’s soils are deficient in essential minerals such as zinc. This limits healthy food and feed production, which leads to nutritional deficiency diseases in livestock and humans.
According to a report and advisory memorandum for the Dutch government prepared by the Dutch Platform for Agriculture, Innovation and Society,
“Zinc deficiencies occur on a large scale in agricultural soils in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the north-western region of South America. Every year, an estimated 800,000 people die from zinc deficiency diseases, primarily in developing companies – roughly equivalent to the global mortality from malaria.”
Another mineral currently lacking in soil is selenium. This mineral may not be essential for crops, but it provides great health benefits to both humans and livestock. About 30% of the lactated women in affected regions (such as India and China) are suffering from selenium deficiency; they may not be able to provide sufficient milk to feed their infants.