Ukrainian scientists say soil samples from the Kharkiv region show that “high concentrations of toxins such as mercury and arsenic from munitions and fuel are polluting the ground,” according to a Reuters report.
The development comes at a time of mounting precariousness for Ukraine’s agricultural sector, as the war with Russia enters its second year, and could further affect global food security.
Last month, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) forecast that low producer prices and high input costs would discourage grain production in Ukraine this year. “Reduced plantings in Ukraine mean that the world will need to produce additional grains and oilseeds to help rebuild stocks and moderate price levels,” wrote IFPRI senior research fellow Joe Glauber.
Ukrainian grain production could decline by 12 to 15 million tonnes of wheat and 15 to 17 million tonnes of corn from 2022 levels, according to private estimates. Before the invasion, Ukraine was one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, a major corn exporter, and global leader in sunflower oil exports.
Then there’s the soil problem. “Using the samples and satellite imagery, scientists at Ukraine’s Institute for Soil Science and Agrochemistry Research estimated that the war has degraded at least 10.5 million hectares of agricultural land across Ukraine so far,” Reuters said.
“That’s a quarter of the agricultural land, including territory still occupied by Russian forces, in a country described as the breadbasket of Europe.”