Crop Protection Tools Preserve Soil Quantity and Quality
April 8, 2014
Up to 50,000 square kilometers of soil – about the size of Costa Rica – is lost every year worldwide, primarily through erosion. This makes protecting soil, one of the most important natural resources, a key priority in global agriculture. If left unprotected, half of our current cropland, especially in Africa, is predicted to become unusable due to desertification and land degradation. The latter can damage both ecosystems and food supplies as arable land becomes obsolete. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as no tillage, and technologies that mitigate extreme climatic conditions, help protect the soil. Herbicide-resistant biotech seeds and crop protection products allow for reduced or no tillage, which can preserve soil moisture and greatly reduce soil erosion. For example, among Canadian farmers planting herbicide-tolerant canola using zero and minimal tillage practices, 86 per cent reduced their soil erosion. In the U.S., using herbicides to control weeds is estimated to reduce soil erosion by 161 billion kilograms each year. By taking fewer passes over the field with tractors to control weeds, farmers can ensure topsoil and soil moisture stay in the field. In fact, studies have shown that organic matter can increase by as much as 816 kilograms per acre per year under long-term no-till production. Continuous no-till can also make soil more resistant to erosion over time. And the more soil, the more carbon retention; no-till farming decreases greenhouse gas emissions by 90 to 95 per cent or more compared to conventional tillage practices.