It can. Overfarming causes the soil to lose its nutrients, so the plants growing there die. With no plants to help make the soil fertile and hold on to the top soil, the soil continues to degradeby deteriorating in mineral content and blowing away with the wind. As this process happens, it slowly become more desert like – with very little water or mineral content – eventually becoming unusable for agriculture. However, other factors such as demand and weather trends can also affect both overfarming and desertification.
Yes, often. Desertification is the process of land in dry semi-arid environments degrading and losing vegetation and soil moisture. Over-cultivation is one common cause of this; another is overgrazing, which may be more common because the lands turning to deserts are often better suited for animal grazing rather than outright agriculture. Either way, the key issue is the removal of groundwater. Crops can soak up groundwater as much or more than human communities that tax water tables for drinking water. Livestock on ranchland or farms also compress the soil with their hooves, thus reducing the percolation rate of the soil and promoting its drying out. One of the most dramatic examples of over-cultivation resulting in desertification occurred in the 1930s in the United States, the infamous “Dust Bowl” where overuse of arable land combined with droughts to turn former prairie lands into arid wastelands. Much of those lands bounced back eventually but it took time–and lots of irrigation.
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