Theme: The dependence of food security on agricultural soils.
According to the IPCC, reduction in the quality of soil, compounded by climate change, will lead to a worldwide decline in agricultural production, thereby threatening food security and stability of food prices.
The climate, soil and agricultural production continuum: Agricultural soils are among the largest reservoirs of carbon and hold the potential for extensive carbon sequestration but increased temperature can lead to the soils releasing carbon and enhance the carbon concentration in the atmosphere.
Rising levels of atmospheric carbon can influence the growth and productivity of agricultural crops.
Decreased soil quality, due to loss of soil organic matter, will affect essential soil properties, including nutrient availability, soil structure, water-holding capacity and erosion capacity.
Role played by FAO: FAO encourages restoring of degraded soils, sustainable management of land and water resources and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices tailored to local contexts.
FAO promotes agricultural systems and agro-ecological practices that nurture soil biodiversity e.g. organic farming, zero-tillage, crop rotations and conservation agriculture.
Recent initiatives: The Soil Health Card scheme of the government has reached out to approximately 30 million farmers to improve agricultural productivity and soil health.
FAO, in partnership with the GoI, has undertaken projects in seven drought-prone districts of Andhra Pradesh on groundwater conservation for improved crop production.
FAO is also collaborating with the Union ministries for agriculture and environment on a green agriculture project, focusing on eco-restoration of one million hectares of degraded land; self-replication through sustainable business models and conserving keystone species in project states—Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.
The way ahead: Strategies on agricultural production should focus on sustainable production, enhanced natural resource management, reduced soil emissions, and mitigating the risks of climate change.