We know that some resources like wind energy and solar energy are renewable resources.
But, when it comes to agricultural topsoil, there is more uncertainty among the general public.
In this guide, we take a quick look at whether agricultural topsoil is a renewable resource or not.
Firstly, What Is A Renewable Resource?
- A renewable resource is a natural resource which will replenish to replace the portion depleted by usage and consumption, either through natural reproduction or other recurring processes in a finite amount of time in a human time scale
So, Is Topsoil A Renewable Resource?
The quick answer is no … at least not for productive fertile soil on a good patch of arable land.
Topsoil is natural, as it’s made of dirt and decomposed organic matter.
But, top soil takes a very long time to be renewed – far longer than the length of a human life/a regular human time scale.
Consider this from fewresources.org:
- It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25 millimeters (1 inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agricultural production is 150 millimeters [5.9 inches]. From this perspective, productive fertile soil is a nonrenewable, endangered ecosystem.
If Topsoil Is Not Renewable – How Are We Currently Producing Food For A Growing Population?
Industrial agriculture has made it possible to produce a lot of food, despite soil erosion/soil loss, and slow soil replenishment rates.
Industrial farming machinery, as well as agricultural chemicals like fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides have boosted yields in the last half a century.
But, yield for several key crops are starting to signs of decreasing annual yields.
Will We Have Enough Topsoil For The Future?
Read more in this guide about how much topsoil we need for agriculture, how much we have left, and whether we have enough for the future.