Photo: Hands Holding Seedling in Soil

As concern over diminishing soil quality grows in the Asia-Pacific region, natural farming methods may hold the cure.  The prime cause of soil erosion and nutrient depletion during the past thirty years is over-application of chemical fertilizer.  

This is the finding of a study by the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Science, which notes that farmers have become too dependent on artificial fertilizers.  They haven't been building up their soil with organic matter that nurtures the soil naturally and binds it together to help resist erosion due to wind and rain. 

The study found that in the Northeastern Chernozem Region, the most fertile region of China, topsoil decreased from three feet in the 1960s to nine inches now.  And The Epoch Times says "Organic matter in the soil dropped from 12 percent to 2 percent, and 85 percent of soil in the region now lacks nutrients, according to a Xinhua article cited by the Ministry of Land and Resources."

While it took only 30 years to deplete the soil, analysts predict that even if trends reversed today, it would still take over 100 years to return even a half-inch of topsoil.  Building healthy soil using sustainable natural methods is a smart investment.  It helps increase crop yields and helps ensure fertile cropland for generations to come.  That’s why soil is more precious than gold.  All the gold in the world won't matter if there's no soil to grow food.

Farmers can make a difference by reducing their dependence on chemical fertilizers.  And those of you who have gardens can help, too.  Instead of using chemicals to feed your plants, use organic fertilizers such as cow manure and compost that you make yourself. 

Some predict that if the trend of soil depletion continues, healthy soil could become one of our most rare and valuable resources.  Whether you are a farmer with vast acres to plant or simply have a small garden in your backyard, each of us can help make a difference.  The use of organic fertilizers, compost, mulches, and other organic matter not only preserves soil; it helps keep it healthy while eliminating health risks associated with toxic, chemical fertilizers that get absorbed by the food crops we eat.