Shifting Ground: The Changing Agricultural Soils of China and Indonesia

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MIT Press, Oct 12, 2000 - Science - 363 pages
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In this book Peter Lindert evaluates environmental concerns about soil degradation in two very large countries -- China and Indonesia -- where anecdotal evidence has suggested serious problems. Lindert does what no scholar before him has done: using new archival data sets, he measures changes in soil productivity over long enough periods of time to reveal the influence of human activity. China and Indonesia are good test cases because of their geography and history. China has been at the center of global concerns about desertification and water erosion, which it may have accelerated with intense agriculture. Most of Indonesia's lands were created by volcanoes and erosion, and its rapid deforestation and shifting slash-burn agriculture have been singled out for international censure. Lindert's investigation suggests that human mismanagement is not on average worsening the soil quality in China and Indonesia. Human cultivation lowers soil nitrogen and organic matter, but has offsetting positive effects. Economic development and rising incomes may even lead to better soil. Beyond the importance of Lindert's immediate findings, this book opens a new area of study -- quantitative soil history -- and raises the standard for debating soil trends.
 

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Contents

Current Concerns
3
What Soil Degradation Means
8
The Importance of Soil Chemistry
9
The Road Ahead
15
Previous Evidence
19
Guesswork on Erosion
30
Changes in Cultivated Area
35
Lessons from Experiments
37
Summary
160
Indonesia
163
A Half Century of Soil Change in Indonesia
165
Preparing the Raw Materials
166
Revealing the Patterns Statistically
169
Soil Trends on Java
175
Soil Trends and the Settlement Process on the Outer Islands
187
Signs of Erosion?
196

Hints from Good Eclectic Histories
41
Summary Diagnosis
43
Beginning a New Soil History
45
Mining the TwentiethCentury Record
46
A Statistical Strategy for Separating Time from Space
65
In Search of Errors
68
China
71
Soil Changes in China since the 1930s
73
Physical Background
74
The Resulting Equations
78
Soil Trends in North China
79
Soil Trends in South China
100
Interpreting the Trends in Soil Nutrients
107
Summary
120
Chinas SoilAgriculture Interactions
125
The Conceptual Task
126
Designing a Simultaneous System to Fit China in the 1980s
127
The Determinants of Agricultural Yields
132
Feedbacks from Agriculture to the Soil
137
The Quality and Quantity of Chinas Cultivated Soils
139
Cultivated Area
145
Three Lingering Concerns
152
The Geography of Indonesias Soil Chemistry
198
Summary
203
Consequences for Indonesian Agriculture
207
Alternative Approaches
208
The Impact of Soils on Agricultural Productivity in 1990
212
Fertilizer as a Substitute for Soil Quality
224
Indonesias Net Investment in Soils 19401990
225
Conclusions and Implications
237
What Have We Done to the Land?
239
On Their Causes
240
On Changes in Cultivated Land Area
243
Consequences
244
Trends versus Potential in Soil Management
251
Full Soil History Regression Equations for China 1930s1980s
253
Soil Chemistry Averages by Province for China 19811986
281
Fuller SimultaneousEquation Estimates of Chinas SoilAgriculture System in the 1980s
285
Full Regression Equation Estimates for the Determinants of Soil Chemistry in Indonesia 19231990
299
Notes
319
References
333
Index
345
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