Soil and the Economy

Soil plays a crucial role in the economy of countries. Farming and agricultural industries are probably the most reliant upon soil, particularly in respect to crop production, which has risen dramatically in the last 50 years in order to cope with the demands of an equally rapidly growing global population.

The demand for more crops has increased the demand for plant nutrients in the form of fertilisers. For a long time, many farms relied on animal manure for this. However most farms in the west now use artificial fertilisers, because it allows more control over which nutrients should be applied to the soil and when.

In the developed countries of the world it has been possible to increase the productivity of soils immensely because of the introduction and development of such fertilisers For example, the use of nitrogen fertilisers has increased 15-fold in the UK in the last 50 years, and over the same period yields of some crops have trebled. Research conducted into crop growth, and how soils release nutrients to plants, has enabled farmers to use suitable and better adapted fertilisers for different crops and soils, and thus add to the fertility of their soils.

There are many other economic land uses that are dependent on the soil, particularly forestry. Trees are usually longer term 'crops' in which an important relationship is built up with the soil to establish a nutrient balance.