When reliable soil data is the need of the hour at the time of increased food insecurity, the UN Food Agency has warned that majority of the countries lacked adequate capacity for soil analysis. As World Soil Day is celebrated on December 5, the Food and Agriculture Organization noted that unsustainable agricultural practices and over exploitation of natural resources as well as a growing population are putting increased pressure on soils and causing alarming rates of soil degradation globally.
The FAO in its latest Global Soil Laboratory Assessment Report states that Over 833 million hectares of soils worldwide are already salt-affected and mentions Central Asia the Middle East, South America, North Africa and the Pacific as the worst affected regions. “Soil is the foundation of agriculture and the world’s farmers depend on soil to produce about 95 per cent of the food we eat,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said, “Yet, our soils are at risk,” he stressed in remarks ahead of the December 5 event on the theme: “Halt Soil Salinization, Boost Soil Productivity?.
As per the Global salt-affected soils map of the FAO, more than ten per cent of cropland is salt affected, which poses a major risk to food security worldwide.
In the report, the FAO wants an integrated approach for management of salt-affected areas, sustainable soil and irrigation and drainage management, selection of salt-tolerant crops and plants including halophytes, which are able to grow well in such environments. It said that collecting soil data and building sufficient capacity in the soil laboratories is essential to manage soil-affected land resources. This could pave the foundation towards digital agriculture in the future, the report said.
QU Dongyu underlined the importance of generating reliable soil data as he announced the official launch of the Global Soil Laboratory Assessment Report. The Report highlights the challenges faced by the countries. It said that majority of the countries lacked adequate analytical capacities, including human resources, harmonization procedures and equipment. The Director General stressed the importance of continuous investment in soil laboratories to provide reliable data on which sound decisions could be made to ensure sustainable soil management and prevent soil degradation. He added that the cost of inaction in maintaining and restoring soil health could have dramatic consequences for the UN’s sustainable development agenda
The COP26 highlighted the vital role of healthy soils in climate change mitigation and adaptation and in building resilience. The FAO has called on all countries to urgently improve their soil information and capacities by making stronger commitments towards sustainable soil management. The European Union’s (EU) recent adoption of a new Soil Strategy, is a positive example, setting concrete and ambitious targets to improve soil health within and outside the Union. Qu said.
- Number of soil laboratories is the lowest of all the regions
- Majority of laboratories available in the region are public and struggle to cover the count demand in terms of analytical services
- All laboratories reported a strong need to get their staff trained to get quality instruments and consumables, and to have better technical assistance services for the maintenance of analytical instruments
- Majority of laboratories are not meeting international standards and do not implement quality control procedures
ASIA AND EURASIA
- Soil laboratories require the organization of periodic training for laboratory staff on the maintenance of laboratory equipment
- In Eurasia, manufacturers and distributors were reported to provide limited after-sale services
- Countries stressed the poor or average conditions of their laboratory infrastructures that need to be improved
- Soil laboratories have good infrastructure, receive sufficient assistance from manufacturers and distributors.
- A few countries reported to still have issue with meeting the country demand for analytical services
- Quality of the analysis is guaranteed by a widespread adoption of quality control procedures and the international standards
- In Latin America, soil laboratories require the organization of periodic training events for laboratory staff and investments to improve laboratories infrastructure and to purchase good quality equipment.
- In North America, the majority of soil laboratories operate in the private sector and are in good conditions. They meet the country demand for analytical services. However, there is a need for regular trainings and harmonization of laboratories procedures.
- The distance between countries play a big role in soil laboratories capacities and needs. In this instance, soil laboratories struggle to receive appropriate technical assistance by manufacturers and distributors, and to purchase and receive consumables in a timely manner
- Majority of countries in the region count on staff that is not sufficiently and regularly trained on the use and maintenance of laboratory equipment