January 13, 2009

Global Soil Maps

Global Soil Maps:  of particular interest to those exploring issues relating to agriculture, climate and sustainability but with a wide variety of maps that could be used for more general purposes.  

It comes to my attention as a number of global development heavyweights are investing in a project to more thoroughly map the (often) depleted soils of Africa.  Though I don't quite share this level of optimism:  
"The digital soil map has brought soil science to the 21st century," he said. "At the push of a button, you have answers on soil erosion, where to farm and what crops to grow on what type of soils."
it should prove useful.  Any farmer worth their salt, or 6'th grade science student for that matter, will tell you it does little good to plant crops in soils that don't have the fertility necessary to bring them to maturity, but then again, any farmer worth their salt won't need a digital soil map to tell them where and what to plant.  It's certainly good information to have, especially on the meta level, but I've never spoken to a farmer on any continent who didn't already know what and where to plant.  Which isn't to say that there aren't new technologies which might help increase yields, there almost always are, but it is to acknowledge that most farmers on the African continent farm the way they do out of necessity, i.e. they want to feed their family today and tomorrow will worry about itself.  


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