Soil Depletion in Mexico

Soil depletion can be defined as the removal of soil nutrients responsible for fertility without adequate replacement. It also encompasses loss of biological diversity and destruction of soil structure. It is remains a key global issue because it affects land productivity, which in turn impacts negatively on food security. Studies done in Mexico indicate that 65% of the country’s land is affected by soil depletion leading to an estimated loss of USD 1billion per year.

Causes of soil depletion in Mexico

The key contributors to this depletion are national phenomena such as aggressive climate, human activity and the topography. The key processes contribute to soil depletion as shown in the table below:
Process % loss
Water erosion 37
Wind erosion 15
Chemical degradation 7
Physical degradation 2
Biological degradation 4
Total 65
Source: SEMARNAP 2000
Human activity has been identified as the major cause of soil depletion in Mexico. This is through poor farming methods, land use practices, overgrazing and excessive use of fertilizers.
Areas most affected
Though land degradation occurs throughout the country causes differ from region to region. According to an investigation by the Mexican Government (Comisión Nacional 1994), regions experiencing the highest levels of soil depletion are:
• Water erosion – Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Coahuila, Michoacan, Zacatecas, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi,
• Wind erosion – San Luis Potosi, Morelos, Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, Baja California, Queretaro and Zacatecas
• Salinization – Tamaulipas, Sonora, Baja California, Chihuahua, Coa-huila, and Colima
• Sodication – Campeche, Sonora, Quintana Roo, Morelos, Yucatan, Tabasco and Mexico
• Physical degradation – Hidalgo and Veracruz,
• Biological degradation – Colima, Morelos, Tabasco, Chiapas, Veracruz, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Yucatan and Sinaloa,
• Chemical degradation – Tabasco, Campeche, Veracruz, Nayarit and Oaxaca,
Effects of soil depletion
Soil depletion impacts on the agriculture industry as well as the environment. It leads to loss of productivity due to the nutrient deficiency in the soil. As a result there is less food available, causing a threat to food security. In addition with lower yields there is less income for smallholder farmers who are the main producers, leading to increased levels of poverty.

Remedial strategies

The implications of soil depletion encompass social, economic, political and environmental spheres and strategies to deal with this problem must take into account all the spheres. This means that multi-disciplinary teams are needed to address the issues. As a result of consultations between scientists, political authorities, administrative institutions and local populations several initiatives have been implemented to arrest this problem of soil depletion. These include choice of crops for cultivation, environmentally friendly agricultural techniques, alternative cultivation methods that protect the soil (e.g. production of agave on slopes to reduce erosion).
Elemite in the fight
Farmers in Mexico are increasingly implanting strategies that work to replace minerals and revitalize the land. One option gaining popularity is Elemite. It’s a Montmorillonite clay that is pulverized and spread into the soil. Studies have shown that Elemite increases the CEC of the land. Thus, the soil retains moisture and minerals better, making healthier plants and stronger microbiology in the soil. Welcome back to life!