Soil Degradation: What Is It And How Does Satellite Technology Help?


Soil degradation, the decrease in soil quality due to human activities, has been a significant worldwide concern throughout the 20th century and will continue to be a priority in the 21st century. It’s crucial to consider the impact of soil degradation on global issues because it affects the quality of the environment and world food security. It is also important to note that high population density does not necessarily what causes soil degradation. Instead, it is the actions of a population towards the soil that determines the level of degradation.

Land degradation happens when land loses productivity due to natural or human factors like erosion, compaction, or salinization. It results in a decrease in the quality and productivity of land due to a mismatch between soil use and quality. Physical, chemical, and biological processes can initiate the process of degradation.

Soil retrogression and degradation of its structure can become a reason for such physical problems as crusting, compaction, erosion, desertification, anaerobic conditions, environmental pollution, and unsustainable usage of natural resources. Chemical processes such as acidification, leaching, salinization, reduced cation retention capacity, and fertility depletion also play a significant role. Biological factors like a decrease in total and biomass carbon and land biodiversity also play a part. The ground structure has a substantial impact on all three forms of degradation.

Reasons of Soil Degradation

Physical factors like rainfall, runoff, wind erosion, and tillage can cause soil degradation. These can lead to loss of fertile topsoil and soil quality. Certain biological factors can negatively affect soil quality for both humans and plants. When certain types of bacteria and fungi overrun an area, they can disrupt the natural biochemical processes of the earth, leading to reduced crop yields and decreased soil productivity.

The degradation caused by alkalinity, acidity, or waterlogging is classified as chemical degradation. It includes changes in the soil's chemical properties that affect nutrient availability. Usually, chemical factors cause the permanent depletion of soil nutrients and production abilities. This leads to solidifying clay soils containing high levels of iron and aluminum, forming hardpans.

Deforestation causes the degradation of land by exposing minerals. It leads to a loss of essential soil layers, impacting its ability to hold water, support biological activity, and allow proper aeration. Vegetation cover is critical for promoting soil formation and binding it together.

Logging and slash-and-burn techniques lead to soil erosion and toxic buildup, making the land unproductive and less fertile.

What Are Soil Degradation Consequences

Problems associated with drought and dry spells are often caused by land degradation. Factors such as overgrazing, improper tillage practices and deforestation can reduce soil quality and eventually cause desertification, characterized by arid conditions. Biodiversity is also threatened by the process of soil degradation.

The degradation leads to a substantial reduction in arable land. Research shows that around 40% of the world's agricultural land is lost due to soil quality deterioration, primarily caused by agrochemicals and soil erosion. Most crop production methods contribute to the loss of topsoil and harm the soil's natural composition, which is essential for agriculture.

When the physical composition of land is changed due to land degradation, it can no longer absorb water, resulting in frequent flooding. This transformation strips the soil of its ability to hold water, increasing flood occurrences.

Soil erosion and chemical fertilizers used in agriculture can harm waterways. Sediment buildup can lead to water scarcity, and farming chemicals can damage the ecosystems of both marine and freshwater environments. It can limit the availability of safe water for people who rely on it for their daily needs.

Types of Soil Degradation

The degradation of land refers to a decline in the soil's physical, chemical, and biological quality. It can lead to a loss of organic matter, decreased fertility, poor structural condition, erosion, changes in salinity levels, acidity, alkalinity, and exposure to harmful chemicals, pollutants, and excessive flooding.

Soil degradation examples can occur in various forms, such as water erosion (including sheet, rill, and gully erosion), wind erosion, salinity (including dryland, irrigation, and urban salinity), loss of organic matter, fertility decline, soil acidity or alkalinity, structure decline (including soil compaction and surface sealing), mass movement, and soil contamination (including the effects of toxic chemicals and pollutants).

Land degradation is caused by heavy machinery or animal compaction, resulting in physical deterioration. It is a reason for reduced water infiltration, increased runoff, and inhibits plant growth. It's prevalent worldwide and worsened by the increased use of heavy machinery. Severe crusting prevents water from penetrating the soil and inhibits seedling emergence.

Solving the Soil Degradation Problem with EOSDA Crop Monitoring

The degradation of land can significantly affect its ability to produce crops. As land degradation worsens, the amount of crops that can be harvested will decrease. To prevent this from happening, it is crucial to carefully monitor the land and be aware of any early signs of degradation.

To prevent the degradation process, the approach must be consistent due to the process's longevity and complexity. EOSDA Crop Monitoring is a satellite-based platform for precision farming created by EOS Data Analytics. This solution offers a range of useful features to monitor the field's current state and predict potential changes in crop output by analyzing historical data and tracking trends.

Soils that have low yield and are degraded require extra attention and care, such as additional fertilization, as they produce less than their potential. The productivity maps provided by EOSDA Crop Monitoring can help in this regard. These maps divide the fields into zones based on their productivity, which can then be utilized to determine the amount of phosphorus and potassium (PK) fertilizer required for each zone.

With EOSDA Crop Monitoring, farmers can utilize productivity maps to apply variable-rate PK fertilizer, ultimately increasing efficiency. Additionally, monitoring the short-term effects of land degradation is essential. By tracking the development of crops over time using various vegetation indices, you can create vegetation maps that offer regular field updates. It enables growers to address any problems that may arise quickly.