What does agriculture do to the health of the soil?



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    It can potentially ruin a soil’s health, or it could potentially improve it, depending on the way one manages their system. For example, all water contains salts. If a farmer continuously irrigates their land, over time, evaporation will lead to salinization of the soils, which then alters the way crops can grow on that piece of land (e.g. wheat is not salt tolerant, but barley can be). Similarly, industrial agriculture can lead to erosion (think the Dust Bowl) and compaction of soils (which in term leads to structure problems, altering the ability of roots to move within the soils, drainage, etc).

    On the other hand, if one manages their system more sustainably, they could protect the soil and limit the negative impacts. Legumes, which fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by plants, can contribute nutrients, as can allowing a cover crop to compost on top of the soil. Properly managing for erosion (again, cover crops), and practicing no-till agriculture can also help with soil problems. Using drip irrigation instead of flood methods can limit salt problems…

    So, as you can see, it is all very complicated. As is life, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

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