Restoring Degraded Agricultural Lands

What’s the Problem?

  • The amount of degraded land worldwide is between 1.9 and 3.6 billion hectares (4.7 and 8.9 billion acres), which is 32 to 73 percent of the world’s 4.9 billion hectares (12.1 billion acres) of farmland (including pasture).
  • Roughly 70 percent of grasslands are degraded.
  • Because arid and semi-arid lands are the most vulnerable, it means that 33 percent of the planet’s land surface is vulnerable to desertification, or the degradation of drylands. Sixty-seven percent of Australia’s cropland is degraded.
  • Globally, we lose 75 billion tons of farm soil to erosion annually, at an estimated cost of US $ 400 billion.
  • About 950 million hectares (2.4 billion acres) of farmland worldwide have become salty due to poor irrigation practices in arid and semi-arid regions. A remarkable 33 percent of all potentially arable lands in the world have been affected by salinization.
  • What is the impact of degradation on the yield of food and other products we depend on from our farms? In Africa reduced yields due to land degradation range from 2 to 40 percent, with an average of 8.2 percent across the continent. In South Asia reduced yields due to land degradation are estimated at 36 million tons of grain per year.
  • Soil compaction has resulted in a 20 to 50 percent reduction in yield in parts of Europe and North America.

How Does Building Healthy Soil Help?

Degraded land has lost much of its carbon— and some carbon farming systems can restore that carbon while bringing the land back into productivity. Restoring degraded land therefore represents a tremendous opportunity to sequester and store carbon while also producing food and meeting human needs, though some lands may be irreversibly degraded.