Sunday, 17 December 2017

MfD: Czech arable land massively shrinks due to erosion

ČTK |
19 April 2017

Prague, April 18 (CTK) - Recent studies have shown that the Czech state strategy of arable land protection from erosion has been a failure and that soil has been disappearing much faster than what experts believed, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes on Tuesday.

Every torrential rain brings irreversible damage to Czech fields, which fail to absorb water as a result of their wrong management. Flowing away, the rain water ablates valuable soil, the daily writes.

Up to 21 million tonnes of soil annually disappear this way, which means a nine-million-crown damage, according to the Environment Ministry, while other experts even estimate the damage at 60 million crowns a year, the paper writes.

The environmental damage is beyond any calculation, since it takes up to centuries for each centimetre of arable soil, which is vitally important for plant growing, to develop, the daily says.

The state has been subsidising anti-erosion measures taken by farmers. As of June, it will start fining farmers for excessive losses of arable soil, MfD writes.

A new study completed by experts from the Czech University of Life Sciences (CZU) has shown that the hitherto calculation of the damage caused by soil ablation has been one-third softer than reality, the daily continues.

The volume of soil that uselessly flows to rivers and streams may therefore be considerably higher than what is officially presented, MfD writes.

The state of arable land is serious also when compared with the situation abroad. In the Czech Republic, 60 percent of all agricultural land is threatened with water erosion as a result of torrential rain, compared with one third in Austria, about 20 percent in France and a mere 10 percent in Belgium, the daily writes.

The Czech Agrarian Chamber says the area of agricultural land damaged by erosion increased by more than 600,000 hectares in the past 20 years, the paper writes.

The CZU experts have completed a map with detailed data on the erosion damage in individual Czech districts, depending on the local character of precipitations.

"We have been irreversibly damaging our arable soil by a wrong management. At present, we largely grow unsuitable plants such as maize or rapeseed, which makes the soil even more impenetrable. The areas with these plants have grown two- to three times in the past 25 years," Frantisek Havlat, an expert in countryside and agriculture, told the paper, referring to the Czech Republic.

"In addition, we use the biggest and heaviest agricultural machines in Europe, which ram down the land, making it thicker. As a result, the rainwater flows on the fields like on asphalt and takes away the soil's surface layer, which is the most valuable," Havlat said.

Simulated models predict the situation to further worsen in the Czech Republic in the decades to come, mainly due to the climate change carrying more torrential rains and longer periods of drought, MfD writes.

Nevertheless, it is still clearly a wrong management of fields, not the climate change, that causes arable land to shrink, experts emphasise.

The Environment Ministry plans to gradually toughen the admissible limit for farmers to "lose" arable land due to erosion. As of July 1, the limit will start with four tonnes for a hectare a year. It will drop to three tonnes as of 2021, two tonnes as of 2025 and one tonne as of 2029, MfD writes.

The fine for a violation of the anti-erosion directive will be up to 100,000 crowns for individual farmers and one million for business firms, the ministry's spokeswoman told MfD.

Apart from choosing suitable plants to grow, Czech farmers should also reduce the area of local fields, which rank among the vastest in Europe. A draft amendment to the game keeping law, submitted by the ministry, binds them to reduce all large fields with a single plant as a step aimed against erosion, MfD writes.

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