What impact does farming have on soil health?
There are three main ways farming affects soil health:
1. Adding nutrients. Farmers often add nutrients to the soil to improve crop yields. However, some of these nutrients and fertilizers can affect the micro-organisms in the soil’s ability to produce natural compounds the crops need.
2. Soil Loss. While soil loss has improved greatly since the 1980s, farming still leads to loss of soil, due to processes like clearing trees and plowing. These losses are roughly 5 tons of soil for each ton of grain planted.
3. Overgrazing. The last way farming impacts soil is through overgrazing, which is when animals eat large amounts of the natural vegetation, causing the soil to wash or blow away. Extreme overgrazing can even lead to desertification or expansion of desert conditions, once the natural plant cover has been eliminated.
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