When mankind first saw the benefits of settling down and tilling the soil, the world's population was small, land was plentiful, and agricultural methods were inefficient. However, in the past 300 years land has begun to be used much more intensively, as the "agricultural revolution" which began in the eighteenth century, developed and spread across the world. Today soil faces many threats. In Germany about 120 hectares a day were lost in 1997 due to surface sealing (building etc.). In Russia 57% of agricultural land is subject to strong erosion. Acidification is widespread in Europe, and the extent of localised pollution of the soil by industry is becoming increasingly understood. Throughout the world farmers are having to recognise the degradation that comes from intensive use and the application of chemicals.
The photograph shows a detail of an agricultural roller called "Goliath" by its manufacturer. It's an appropriate name since, when towed by a tractor, it can do the work that formerly took many men much longer. The reduction in the farm workforce, the increase in farm sizes, and rampant mechanisation, have all worked to distance people from the soil, and this has further contributed to its degradation. I noticed this roller as I walked along a footpath past a farm, and was attracted by the pattern of the rings of saw-like teeth, the pitted surface and the rust spots. I chose a diagonal view to introduce a note of instability to the composition.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen