Field of clean-cultivated winter wheat in Washington State brought two hundred tons soil loss per acre. Photo by F.A. Mark
I took a drive into the hills of western Iowa this weekend, and saw some of the worst soil erosion I've seen in a long time. Heavy rains on exposed soils have really taken a toll on some fields, especially those that appear to have just been brought into crop production this spring. I saw several fields that looked to be CRP ground or pasture that had been planted to row crops. Given the slope and the gulleys, it's hard to believe you could even drive a tractor safely on fields like that.
Farmers on Agriculture Online report similar sightings. Even with conservation practices in place, major damage has occured on sloping soils. In Crop Talk, one Iowa farmer said, "I have some of the worst erosion we have ever had. It starts at the base of the terraces and is anywhere from 10 to 15 feet wide all the way to the bottom and 3 inches deep."
A couple weeks ago, Agriculture Online Correspondent Roy Smith wrote a piece, 7,000 years of farming, based on his reading of the pamphlet, "Conquest of the Land Through 7000 Years."
Roy wrote, "The reason that my attention was drawn again to this publication is that eastern Nebraska has suffered severe erosion from two very hard rain storms in the last month. I can look out my office window and see evidence of permanent damage done to the soil from these two rains of four inches each in less than two weeks. Such rains are common in this area, coming at least once in five years. As I look at the fields in my neighborhood, I wonder if some day they will look like the pictures of fields in the Middle East and North Africa shown in the pamphlet."
Roy, a seasoned Nebraska farmer, goes on to bemoan the way that "conservation has fallen by the wayside" in our modern era of agriculture.
I hear ya, Roy....