International Year of Soils: Feeding our cities
This is the third in a series of articles celebrating the UN FAO’s International Year of Soils and explaining the important role paraquat plays in promoting healthy and productive soils around the world. FAO have developed a Soils Portal designed as a source of soil information. The key messages from FAO are that1:
- Healthy soils are the basis of healthy food, feed, fibre, fuel and medicines.
- Soils support biodiversity
DescriptionThe variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations. Includes ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity (IUCN, UNEP and WWF, 1991).
Authoritative On-line References and Resourceshttp://earthtrends.wri.org/ EarthTrends is a comprehensive online database, maintained by the World Resources Institute, that focuses on environmental, social, and economic trends. Statistics on biodiversity indicators are available..
- Soils help to combat climate change, having key roles in the cycling of carbon and nitrogen.
- Soils store and filter water, and improve resilience to floods and droughts.
- Soil is a non-renewable resource, essential for food security and sustainability.
Urban farmingIn 2014, the UN estimated that 54% of the global population lived in urban areas.2 The forecast is that by 2050 this figure will reach 66%, with 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. In 1990, there were ten ‘mega-cities’ with 10 million inhabitants or more. Currently, there are 28 mega-cities worldwide, lead by Tokyo with 38 million people, followed by Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City, São Paulo and Mumbai. Urban and peri-urban farming is becoming more important to facilitate and ensure the supply of food to cities, especially fresh vegetables. Surprisingly high productivity can be achieved, but of course, this puts pressure on the soil in terms of maintaining its ability to sustain vigorous and healthy crop growth. However, the availability of land is limited and it is essential to keep precious soil in a good state.
Benefits of paraquatUsing paraquat for weed control in conservation tillage
DescriptionAny tillage and planting system that covers 30 percent or more of the soil surface with crop residue after planting to reduce soil erosion by water.
Authoritative On-line References and ResourcesPurdue University-based Conservation Technology Information Centre. or no-till systems has many benefits, which address the International Year of Soil’s key messages:
- More soil organic matter for improved health, structure and fertility, and locking-up carbon dioxide.
- Crop residues and weed roots remain to stabilize soil and resist erosion.
- Undisturbed fields after harvest provide habitats to increase biodiversity.
- Reduced cultivations mean less soil compaction.
- Paraquat is deactivated immediately on soil contact and does not leach
DescriptionThe natural process by which water soluble substances are carried downward through the soil into groundwater..
Herbicides support city livingAs people flood into cities, fewer and fewer remain in the countryside to grow food. Manual weeding is the most intensive operation on small farms in developing countries. Paraquat and other herbicides provide a solution. Read more …
Paraquat is deactivated in soil and does not leachParaquat is extremely tightly bound to soil particles on contact. This means that it can be used without concern for damaging crops by root uptake and it cannot get into groundwater. Read more …
Growing better vegetables in the PhilippinesParaquat is used before vegetables are planted and can be sprayed around crop plants. Weeds are, therefore, controlled at all stages when crops are vulnerable to weed competition and consequent loss of yield. Read more …
- FAO International Year of Soils website
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects.