Which countries have the best arable land?

Ten facts about arable land

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Production and funding on Monday, January 19, 2015 - 2:00 p.m. (Comment now)

Soils are the basis for our food production and are therefore the most important production factor in agriculture. Here you will find ten facts about the subject of soil.

The sustainable usability of the soil and the minimization of land consumption are central goals. Soils are the basis for our food production. They provide the plants with nutrients and water. In every potato, every bread, every manioc and every polenta, but also in every schnitzel and every roast chicken, there are nutrients from the soil. Good food cannot be produced without healthy soils.
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2. World population and land use

Soils form the basis for over 90% of the food produced worldwide. 2,100 square meters (m2) of arable land are available to every citizen around the world to produce food and feed as well as renewable raw materials. While the demand for agricultural products for a world population that will grow to 9 billion by 2050 is steadily increasing, agricultural land is being lost through desertification, salinisation and degradation. Locally, up to 50 percent decline in earnings is expected. This will particularly affect the countries of the Third World. Increasing and widespread famines would be the result.
But agriculture also shares responsibility for this loss. Soil pressure, pesticides and fertilizers have a negative effect on the soil structure and living beings. The protection and maintenance of the vital basis of life, soil, will therefore play an increasingly important role in the future.
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3. Germany's land use

Areas and soils are used very differently in Germany. In 2013, the settlement and traffic area took up 48,482 square kilometers or 13.6% of the land area in Germany (357,341 square kilometers). The forest area took up 108,162 square kilometers or 30.3%, the agricultural area 186,193 square kilometers or 52.1% of the land area.
This area is constantly shrinking. Through settlement or traffic areas, around 73 hectares of new land are used daily for settlements and traffic, and half of them are sealed. Since the forest area is also increasing, the agricultural area in Germany is steadily declining. This land use represents the greatest threat to the quality of agricultural soils and their sustainable productivity.
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4. Soil functions

Soils are not only important for food production. In addition, they also fulfill a number of other important functions:
  • you filter rainwater and thus create new, clean drinking water.

  • They regulate the climate because they are the largest after the oceans Carbon storage of the earth: They store more carbon than all the world's forests combined. Estimates assume that soils store around 2,000 gigatons of CO2 (oceans 38,000 gigatons).

  • And floors are very much alive! There are more living in a handful of earth Organisms as people on our planet. Two thirds of all species in the world live hidden under the earth's surface.
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5. Important soil components

The soil forms the top layer of the earth. The technical definition of soil is easy at first glance: soil consists of around 45% mineral particles and around half of water and air. The remaining 5% consist of dead or living plants and animals. The composition of these components is constantly changing, so that the term soil encompasses a large number of different facets.
  • Mineral substance: The mineral substance arises from the weathering of the rocks and forms the main component of the solid soil substance. It supplies the essential mineral salts for the nutrition of the plants.

  • Humus: When plants die, they are converted into humus. These organic substances are vital to the fertility of the soil. They hold the soil particles together and lock in water and nutrients that are accessible to roots.
    Arable land, which makes up around 1.5 billion hectares of the earth's surface, generally contains less organic substances than soils with natural vegetation, since the crops and mostly also the straw are harvested, leaving little organic matter behind.

  • Creature: Soil is always a habitat for most of the biosphere. Alone under the surface of a shoe sole there are more soil organisms than there are people on earth. On just one hectare of arable land, all living organisms together can weigh up to 5 tons. Soil organisms decompose the dead organic components of the soil, such as leaves and dead soil animals, and thus convert nutrients that cannot be used into a form that is available to plants. They store nutrient elements, improve the soil structure and thus make a contribution to soil fertility.
  • Among the animals, special attention is paid to earthworms, as the many different earthworm species native to Germany contribute significantly to the quality of the soil.
  • Air and water: About half of the soil consists of air and water. This is important so that the plants can root through the soil and provide them with sufficient water.

6. Soil types

The interplay of climate, bedrock and topography as well as human intervention such as plowing or irrigation create soils that are either sandy, silty or loamy, acidic or basic, saturated with water or well drained, fertile or sterile.
The cultivation of the soil should always be appropriate to the soil type. For example, it is advisable to improve the humus content and thus the soil structure on sandy, arid soils. On the one hand, this protects against erosion and drought and increases the long-term yield potential.
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7. Germany's soils

Hundreds of different flooring variants can be found in Germany, all of which have different properties. A current study is the Müncheberger soil quality rating (SQR) of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Raw Materials, which represents a nationwide uniform and internationally comparable map of the soil quality of arable soils in Germany, on which the potential productivity of German arable soils is recorded.
Overall, the results of the Soil Quality Rating are positive: on a scale from 0 to 100, the calculated (area-weighted) nationwide mean is 64 points and thus shows above-average potential fertility of German soils - especially for grain. On 25% of the areas there is even a high or very high yield potential.
According to the soil quality ranking, there are no restrictions whatsoever on almost 60% of the soils fertility. The yield potential is mainly limited by the risk of drought and the depth of the soil. Almost 20% of the areas suffer from Drought risk, mostly due to natural conditions.
21.6% of the areas are restricted by other factors. Thus only forms on 3.5% of the areas of the Degree of acidification a limiting factor. The latter areas are identical to the distribution area of ​​the raised and fens, primarily in Lower Saxony and Brandenburg.

8. Endangerment

  • Soil compaction: If the soil is compacted, this has negative effects: The water and air balance of the soil is disturbed. Plants cannot root through the soil, or only with difficulty, and the important microorganisms lack the oxygen for the decomposition of organic matter.

    Waterlogging occurs on the soil surface as a result of the inadequate pore system that directs the water into the depths. Waterlogging and a lack of oxygen inhibit the degradation processes and thus reduce soil fertility. Plowing loosens the uppermost centimeters of the soil, but creates what is known as a plow bed on which the water then collects. Mulching or cultivating is more suitable here.

  • Soil erosion: Soil erosion cuts off the soil that can be rooted through, carries away nutrients and humus, pollutes streams and lakes, pollutes streets and settlements. Causes for the Water version are of course heavy rainfall, but also particularly uncovered soil surfaces, too little humus in the soil and many lanes due to tillage. There is much less water erosion under forests and meadows.

    Besides water erosion, there is also Wind erosion. Unprotected soil can easily be blown by wind and carried away when dry. Wind flows over the soil surface at increased speed, the soil particles begin to "wander" and destroy each other. Windbreak hedges, a year-round covered soil and the right soil cultivation help to reduce the potential for erosion.
    • Acidification: Soil acidification mainly affects forest soils and other soils of near-natural ecosystems. Agriculturally used soils are - if necessary - limed in order to enable the best possible production conditions.
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    9. Soil protection

    The most fundamental provision in German soil protection law is the Soil Protection Act. It defines the principles of good professional practice in agricultural land use and thus serves to ensure sustainable soil fertility and soil productivity as a natural resource. For example, all soil cultivation must always be adapted to the location, take into account the respective weather and thus take into account the unchangeable soil properties.
    Concrete practical measures for soil protection are:
    • Conservative tillage: Dispensing with plowing and direct or mulch sowing leads to improvements in the physical properties of the topsoil, the susceptibility to surface silting and the macropore system. It also contributes to increasing soil biodiversity.
    • Land cover measures: Covering the soil over the winter, for example with catch crops, has a positive effect on soil quality and contributes to protection against erosion.
    • Use of modern technology for Avoidance of ground pressure: To reduce the ground pressure, wide tires or twin tires are common for tractors and harvesting vehicles, for example. This distributes the weight over a larger contact area.
    • Design of the crop rotation: A suitable crop rotation should improve the biological activity of the soil.
    • Return of organic matter: Compared to mineral fertilizers, organic fertilizers are slowly decomposed by the microorganisms and are therefore longer available for plant roots. They also increase the humus content of the soil and ensure an improved soil structure.
    • Sustainable fertilization: It is important to use fertilizers sparingly and as precisely as possible.
    • Precision farming: Technical progress increases the accuracy and efficiency when using fertilizers and pesticides.
    • Maintenance of landscape elements: A contribution to soil protection can also be made by planting and maintaining landscape elements such as hedges and rows of trees, reducing the risk of wind erosion, for example.
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    10. Land prices

    The appreciation for land as the basis of agricultural production is also reflected in land prices. Land prices have risen in recent years, most recently in 2013 to 16,400 euros per hectare.
    The same applies to the lease prices. On average in Germany, the average lease prices rose by 19% to EUR 243 per hectare between 2010 and 2013. Here, the appreciation is essentially based on the productivity of the soil. The prices for arable land rose significantly more than for grassland.
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