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The first Soils Bulletin was issued in 1965 and now, eighteen years later, the landmark of No. 50 has been reached. The technical subjects have covered a wide spectrum of soil science with the intention of bringing knowledge to anyone interested in developing the resources of their country for the benefit of mankind. In the early days, much of the material concerned surveys and inventories, later came methods of classification and evaluation and, more recently, the stress has been on conservation and good management of natural resources by using organic materials and erosion control measures.
The purpose of this Soils Bulletin is to convince the leaders of all countries, and the developing countries in particular, of the urgent need to reduce soil erosion and to persuade them to adopt and support practical programmes of soil conservation. The underlying messages are: to avoid erosion by using the land in accordance with its capabilities; to apply measures to heal the land where erosion has already taken place; and to employ a combination of these approaches with modern soil management techniques to improve the productivity of the l and.
Erosion is especially severe in many developing countries, which can ill afford further loss in productive capacity. A large body of knowledge and expertise already exists in the field of soil conservation. Many practices have been developed for application to cropland, rangeland, and forest land. The aim of practically all conservation systems is to permit a satisfactory level of production while keeping erosion as low as possible.
Depending on political, social, and economic conditions in each country, there are a number of workable approaches to soil conservation that should be undertaken promptly. Typically, these programmes require legislative and institutional changes; an agency devoted to soil conservation; a trained, highly motivated field staff, and technical and financial assistance to farmers and graziers.
Also needed is more accurate information about the soils of each country and their proper management, as well as improved agronomic systems that combine resource protection with acceptable yields. Shifting cultivation is a special problem requiring additional research, as is the growing threat of desertification in semi-arid zones. Research findings need to be communicated to growers in a form they can understand and apply.
A number of kinds of assistance are available to developing countries today that want to develop and implement soil conservation programmes. The help may be bilateral, from donor countries or multilateral, as provided by international agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO is prepared to assist with research or directly with the creation and improvement of soil conservation programmes. It is hoped that these combined efforts will help bring a halt to the growing degradation of the world' s soil resources.
Cartoon by Bill Garner, reproduced by courtesy of The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
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