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Business agricultural activities impact upon soil…

Soil icon…through increased soil salinisation and acidity from pollution

Salts occur naturally in soil and in irrigation water and, if not removed from agricultural wastewater, they can build up over time, reducing the ability of crops to take up water and resulting in lower yields. Two thousand hectares of land are lost per day due to damage caused by salt. Pollutants, including mine tailings, acid rain, and fertiliser remnants, can lead to low pH soils. Acidic soils cause significant losses in production and where the choice of crops is limited to acid-tolerant species and varieties, profitable market opportunities may be reduced. The use of agrochemicals such as pesticides in business operations has helped increase yields, but their overuse can also cause chemical changes in soil composition and disrupt the micro-organism communities in the soil. Polluting soil resources has trickle down impacts on the production of raw materials needed for corporate supply chains and can lead to the increase of input costs essential for soil nutrition and structure.

…through the alteration of the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus

Nitrogen and phosphorus are both essential elements for plant growth and fertiliser is often applied to make up for shortages within the soil. However, only a small fraction of the fertiliser generated for crop production is taken up by plants, whilst the rest is lost to the environment. Although at least one-third of humanity now relies on nitrogen fertiliser for adequate diets, an increasing level of this reactive nitrogen causes a series of negative effects such as acid rain, reduced groundwater quality, negative impacts on human health, soil and stream acidification, coastal eutrophication and nitrous oxide emissions. Business impacts on the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have extensive effects on water sources and local community health which can subsequently impact raw material production and brand representation.

…through the promotion of soil erosion, degradation and compaction

One-third of the world’s arable land has been degraded since 1960 and the rate continues at about ten million hectares per year. As agricultural land becomes degraded, producers may be forced to convert more land to agriculture. Livestock farming is one of the main activities responsible for soil erosion globally. While pasture itself may not result in annual soil erosion rates as high as those from crop production, the initial conversion from, for example, forests to pasture can lead to extreme erosion with loss of topsoil and organic matter. Soil is also damaged by compaction, which occurs when heavy machinery, the passage of humans or animals or a lack of water in the soil displaces air from pores between soil grains. Degraded land masses and soil resources may force business operations to relocate, may disrupt supply chains, or may incur significant costs to manage existing soil resources. Business expansion may also be challenged by regulations and national land legislation.



Dr Gemma Cranston
Senior Programme Manager