Salinization refers to the salt content reaching levels where it affects agriculture and environmental health. It is commonly caused by heavy or improper use of irrigation systems. The issue of salinization did not receive enough attention and solutions must be found before damage is done.
Salt naturally accumulates in the soil. RECARE reports that the rising of sea levels and wind carried salt can all generally increase the salt content of agricultural land.
In hot and dry places like California, irrigation becomes the main source for water. After California experienced a major drought in 2011 through 2014, the dependency on irrigation only escalated, according to California Agriculture.
In the San Joaquin Valley alone, an estimated 1.9 million metric tons of salt are imported daily through irrigation and natural sources, according to California Agriculture.
Furthermore, in California 4.5 million acres are affected by salinization, according to California Agriculture. California’s loss of productive land is of critical importance to the remainder of the United States, considering a majority of the fruits, vegetables and nuts are supplied by California.
This is extremely important, as California produces 99 percent of artichokes and walnuts. It also produces 97 percent of kiwis and plums and 95 percent of celery and garlic, according to Slate.
With California’s depleting soil, Americans will eventually have to switch their diet to contain mainly grains or pay more for fruits and vegetables. This issue is very serious because it would only further damage the nutrition of people living below poverty.
Individuals who cannot afford the price inflation will have to forgo the nutrition supplied through fruits and vegetables. Moreover, this does not affect plants alone. Considering livestock are fed with plants, once the price of plant-food increases, the price of meat will also increase.
In addition, California’s economy will also take a hard hit due to salinization. California has lost $3.7 billion annually since the 2011-14 drought due to soil salinity. That is roughly 10 percent of their annual agricultural revenue, as reported by Phys.
Unfortunately, there are few resources to reduce salinity in the soil. The salt in the soil can be drained away with excess water, which would require countless amounts of already limited fresh water. It can also be leached out with the planting of salt-resistance plants, or agricultural production can be halted until the salt levels decrease.
The land, however, would be left unoccupied, and therefore California would not be able supply Americans with fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, “current de-salinization technology, unfortunately, is very expensive” Ph.D. student Paul Welle reported to Phys. Even with California’s hefty loss in revenue, de-salinization technology costs too much to implement, yet salinization cannot be ignored, according to Phys.
It is necessary to continue trying to find alternative methods to solve this problem.
When the soils have low levels of salinity, the salt reduces soil productivity and limits crop production according to RECARE. As salt levels increase, salinity can kill vegetation and organisms living in the soil.
As a result, fertile land can become completely barren. Americans can find themselves at a loss for many different types of food if soil salinity is allowed to reach high levels.
Minimizing the amount of salt in the soil is in everyone’s best interest. Doing so can prevent negative effects in multiple facets. Increasing funding for cheaper and quicker de-salinization methods is necessary and will ensure that agricultural soils do not completely deplete.