U.S. Scientists Work to Stave Off Desertification

The health and well-being of our land isn’t always on our radar.


July 23, 2021 by Share America

U.S. scientists are developing technologies and new approaches to reduce desertification and in some cases return harmed land to its earlier fertile condition.

A classic example of desertification is the 1930s Dust Bowl period in the United States, which devastated Midwestern states. It was a time when severe droughts combined with poor land-management practices to cause tremendous suffering and economic loss.

But during those Dust Bowl years, scientists learned valuable lessons that continue to influence U.S. agricultural practices.

oday, U.S. scientists address the continuing problem of land becoming barren and not usable for production due to drought, inappropriate farming techniques, deforestation or certain other human activities. Globally, more than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land has already been degraded, according to the United Nations. By 2045, some 135 million people around the world may be displaced by desertification.

“When desertification happens, people go hungry and leave their land and must find other places to make a living,” says Jeff Herrick, a soil scientist with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. science representative to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “We are all about helping people stay on their land by giving them the information they need to manage it better.”


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.