Soil Damage

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

A new report warns that almost forty percent of the world's farmland is seriously damaged. It says this could limit future crop production in those areas.

Scientists with the International Food Policy Research Institute prepared the report. The Institute is one of sixteen research centers that belong to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

The findings are based on studies of pictures provided by satellites orbiting earth, maps and other information. The scientists worked on the report with the World Resources Institute.

The findings are to be included in a publication planned for release in September. The publication will describe widespread problems in nearly every environmental system on Earth.

The scientists say the evidence suggests that soil damage already has reduced food production on about sixteen percent of the world's farmland.

The scientists found that seventy-five percent of farmland in Central America is seriously damaged. Twenty percent of farmland in Africa is seriously damaged. In Asia, the rate is eleven percent.

The scientists say the reasons for soil damage differ from area to area. Soil damage can result from flooding, the effects of chemicals or the removal of nutrients that help plants grow.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen is Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute. He notes that a growing world population is making the issue of food production more complex. Experts believe the world population will increase by one-thousand-five-hundred-million people in the next twenty years. Mr. Pinstrup-Andersen notes that almost all of them will live in developing countries. He also says the natural fertility of agricultural soils is generally decreasing. And, it is increasingly difficult to find productive, new land to grow crops.

The report says competition for water also will make food production more difficult. The report says science and new technologies may be successful in solving some of these problems in the next few years. But it says the problem of meeting human needs may grow ever more difficult over longer periods of time.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English