Saturday, November 18, 2017

Soil in Africa

Breadbaskets are regions that produce a large and stable surplus of one or more major food crops that not only meet local demand, but substantially contribute to the food supply in other regions. By this definition, there are only a few major breadbaskets in the world. The only rain-fed corn and soybean breadbaskets are the U.S. Corn Belt, Brazilian Cerrados and Argentinean Pampas.

Current yields in sub-Saharan Africa are well below what could be achieved given the region's farmable land and annual rainfall. The area receives more rainfall per year than other breadbaskets around the world. Given these factors, there is a persistent narrative that sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to become a grain breadbasket if production is intensified.

A lack of data on soil depths that will support root growth has limited rigorous evaluations of how well sub-Saharan soils can support high, stable yields. This is a critical parameter because deeper soils can buffer against rain-free periods. 

Soils in the U.S. Corn Belt are deep and young, laid down during the past 20,000 years, whereas sub-Saharan soils are weathered and much older, dating back at least 540 million years. In the U.S. Corn Belt, the soils are deeper than 1.5 meters.

1 comment:

Trevor Goodger-Hill said...

Thanks for a snapshot of agricultural potential. I don't have the statistics but large areas of Africa have been "bought" by the Chinese to feed a population they have insufficient land to satisfy.

In the late 1950's and early 60's agricultural scientists were forecasting famines in Africa in 20 years if mono agricultural practices of the west continued. Right on the button the Ethiopian famine occurred and Bono became "a moral star".

If they find the African soil capable of sustained agriculture in their search for another breadbasket -- there goes the natural vegetation -- and the forests and their habitats disappear like we are/have done in North and South America.