Soil Erosion: A Costly Cause of  Soil Degradation

What is Soil Erosion?

Soil erosion occurs when wind, water, snow and other natural forces unearth topsoil (the uppermost layer of soil) and carry it to other locations.

A loss of topsoil due to erosion is a pressing concern for farmers. Why? Because replacing topsoil is very time-consuming.

It is often noted that 1 inch of topsoil takes 200, 300, or even 500 years to form from rocks.

However, farmers must have a minimum of 6 inches of topsoil to produce successful crop yields.

Therefore, the amount of topsoil required for farming may take not only hundreds, but even thousands of years to form!

What Can Soil Erosion Potentially Cost Us?

Our Food Supplies

Soil needs the roots of plants to hold it in place. In turn, soil props up plants while providing them with the nutrients they need to survive. If we have no soil, then we have no food crops.

The risk of famine increases especially if we lose too much topsoil due to erosion. Since topsoil for farming takes so long to form and thus replace, we could go without food for a very long time.

Discover more about the crucial relationship between soil and plants on the soil fertility page.

The Quality of Our Water

When soil erodes, where is it often carried off to? Into our fresh surface water— where eroded soil pollutes our drinking water and harms aquatic ecosystems.

Soil from conventional farms is also frequently contaminated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which also end up polluting our water when soil erodes.

Learn more about water pollution here.

What about Soil Degradation?

So now you know what erosion is and why it is a problem for us and the environment. But there is more…

This agricultural issue is also part of a larger discussion since it is one of the most well known causes of soil degradation.

What is Soil Degradation?

Soil degradation is the depletion of the ability of soil to support the growth of crops.

Famine and water pollution are also issues linked to soil degradation. Other problems associated with soil degradation include increases in wasted water and decreases in ecosystem efficiency and biodiversity.

What Causes Soil Degradation?

Conventional farming techniques trigger all the factors that cause soil degradation.

The major causes of soil degradation are:

  • Soil erosion
  • Soil infertility
  • Vulnerability to pest attacks
  • Harm to beneficial soil organisms
  • Over-use of water

Click here to learn how specific conventional agricultural methods trigger soil degradation.

Do farming practices exist that prevent the problem of soil degradation?

Yes, these techniques are called soil conservation.

What is Soil Conservation?

Soil conservation is the use of farming techniques that prevent soil degradation by:

  • Guarding against soil erosion
  • Increasing soil fertility
  • Protecting against pest attacks
  • Preserving beneficial soil organisms
  • Conserving water

Soil conservation methods help to increase the capacity of soil to support the growth of crops.

While reducing the risk of famine, soil conservation also guards against other issues linked to soil degradation. Conserving soil helps to decrease water pollution and conserve the use of water as well as increase ecosystem efficiency and biodiversity.

Who Practices Soil Conservation?

Organic farmers use soil conservation techniques in their work.

No wonder that soil degradation occurs less on organic farms than on conventional farms!

Go here to find my FREE soil conservation e-book.

In this e-book, I explain:

  • Which organic farming techniques conserve soil
  • How these methods conserve soil by preventing soil degradation
  • Why the environment benefits when organic farmers conserve soil
  • How the soil conservation methods used by organic farmers contrast with conventional farming techniques that degrade soil
  • …and more!

Return from Soil Erosion to Organic Instead home page.