Nearly 40 percent of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, salinization, and other problems, according to a study released yesterday by the International Food Policy Research Institute. The degradation has already significantly lowered the productivity of 16 percent of the world’s farmland, including 75 percent of farmland in Central America and 20 percent in Africa. Developing countries have been more hard-hit than industrialized ones. Still, soil degradation could be reversed with careful land management, said Phil Padey, a senior researcher on the project.