Soil erosion threatens everything

Letters to the Editor

Soil erosion threatens everything

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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Dear Editor,

A great amount of discussion was in the news and talk shows surrounding the digging of the big marl hole at Bengal in St Ann. To my mind, this is nowhere as serious as the massive soil erosion taking place after flood rains and dry winds each year.

When I saw the rivers of mud running to the sea during the last year's rains I wondered how many million tons of soil the country has lost again. But I have not heard much discussion about this matter.

The soil is the medium in which most of our food-producing plants grow, and constant erosion over the many years is mainly responsible for the declining yield in food production. One result is that an increasing amount of chemicals has to be used to boost the yield each year. This increases the cost of production while the residue runs into the sea poisoning both fish and reef life, resulting in the decline of production from that area in addition to polluting the underground water and killing the plant pollinators.

The reasons for this massive erosion are many, but the reduction of the forests without replanting is a major long-term challenge. Most of the hardwood trees are gone, so imported immature lumber keeps the termites well fed and happy, and the buildings frail and unstable.

Recently, I passed a truck laden with young saplings on the way to make yam sticks. That reminded me of the Pharaoh of Egypt killing the baby boys.

Farms, because of constant subdividing, do not give room for proper agricultural practices such as crop rotation, and the rearing of the few heads of cattle by small farmers, which helped to fertilise the soil, is not as common today.

Asphalt and concrete have largely replaced vegetation and can no longer control water run-offs, so the precious soil ends up in the sea. This is the same reason there should be no housing constructed on certain sloping lands.

Tractors which prepare the land nowadays cannot plough on steep hillsides; they have to plough downhill across the contours, thus contributing significantly to soil erosion. As young 4-H clubbites long ago we were taught how to plant on sloping grounds and to line out contours using a spirit level and an A-frame, then completing the process with grass or stone barriers. I don't see much of that these days. Are these not useful practices anymore? Sometimes it is the simple things that make a difference.

Soon we will be having drought again. And the cycle of erosion will not end. We have talked about this a long time, but action is now needed!

Trevor Samuels

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