A National Geographic photographer portrayed what happens inside the earth with the roots that man sows. The images show the abysmal difference in infiltration, absorption and consumption between a perennial pasture and an annual crop.
The latest floods that affected the south of Santa Fe and the north of Buenos Aires rekindled the debate regarding the factors that increasingly cause these hydric phenomena. The government blamed climate change and accused the former executive branch of doing few infrastructure works. Academics and scientists went a little further: they put the magnifying glass on the adverse consequences of a production model that displaced pastures to plant soybeans, the most profitable annual crop to export.
Rosarioplus.com published a report at the beginning of the month with data collected by the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) of Marcos Juárez (Córdoba). A survey by Nicolás Bertram and Sebastián Chiacchiera managed to quantify the damage caused by the consolidation of soybeans as the main agricultural crop in the country: a field planted with this seed absorbs ten times less water than a native forest and three times less than a pasture with cattle .
"The humid pampa is today a large pot saturated with water," explained Bertran, referring to the current state of the water sources after decades of sojisation. So worrisome is the panorama that, in his opinion, it is no longer enough to “rotate the crops”, a solution that some producers and entrepreneurs in the sector propose. "We need more pastures and more afforestation," said the scientist in an interview with this portal.
Along the same lines as this working hypothesis, National Geographic magazine published a revealing graphic document on the infiltration, absorption and consumption differences between a perennial pasture and an annual crop. A photographer portrayed the work of an agroecological engineer who for months worked in a huge earth pit at an institute in Salina, Kansas, United States.
The article is titled "Digging deep reveals the intricate world of roots," written by Becky Harlan.
Scientist Jerry Glover managed to get under the ground to see what was happening on the ground with a plantation of prairie grasses and another of wheat, one of the most widely used crops in North America. In the first case, the roots extended more than four meters.
"In addition to being impressively large, these hidden root balls achieve high carbon storage, nourish the soil, increase bioproductivity and prevent erosion," explains Glover. And he adds: "Unfortunately, these productive and perennial herbs, which live all year round, are rarer than they used to be." The roots of the crops hardly spread across the land. The plants were grown in large pot-like pipes, simulating an open field.
Photographer Jim Richardson joined this researcher's fieldwork to illustrate the findings after a year of experiment. The photos confirmed that agriculture is one of man's main threats to global biodiversity and ecosystem function.
“Before agriculture, natural plant communities ruled the land and kept ecosystems in perfect balance. Because these plants were perennials, they lived all year round and were incredibly efficient in regulatory processes such as nutrient cycling and water consumption, ”says Glover. Everything changed - maintains the scientist - when man replaced natural herbs with crops.
Creating annual crops requires additional fertilizers, heavy machinery, and "land disturbance," in a process that "repeats year after year," Glover details. What do you propose? Develop “perennial crops” (an invention in the process of being developed) to re-plant “natural plant communities” in the fields again.
“These crops would be more like the natural grasslands that once dominated the Earth. The crops can be harvested year after year without being replanted, they would enrich the soil instead of depleting it and they would require no fertilizers or pesticides ”, he concludes in his research.Ecoportal.net
By Andres Actis, Rosario Plus