NEWS

Great for French fries, not so good for fields

Around 5,000 acres of farmland in arid and semi-arid regions are lost every day to damage caused by salt, according to a recent UN report

Source: Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)

Salinization is a problem that has already affected one-fifth of irrigated land in the world, an area equivalent to the size of France, and will continue to worsen without new land and water management practices.

Salinization – the accumulation of salt in soil – occurs in areas with little rainfall and poor drainage. Normal salt levels in soil are between 0 to 175 milligrams of salt per litre. When levels reach 3,500 milligrams per litre, crop production plummets.

However, salinization is not permanent. The report details several methods which can reverse soil degradation; these include planting trees and digging ditches and drains around plots to prevent water logging. Growing salt-tolerant crops is another option; and according to research from IWMI and WLE scientists in Central Asia, growing salt-loving liquorice is one solution to lower salinity levels – after three to four years, farmers can once again plant staple crops.

The full report, ‘Economics of Salt-induced Land Degradation and Restoration’, is available here.

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