AG 101: Iowa Environment & Soil Conservation

As a novice to agriculture, I have had the opportunity to dig deeper into many different topics and educate myself and others about agriculture and agriculture’s impact on our day to day lives.  Our environment is a hot topic. I am curiou_74974804_heavyrains to know more about what farmers do to manage their land and how different strategies affects land and waterways throughout the state.  As we celebrate Earth Day this April 22 it’s the perfect time to be proactive with our precious land.

My first question is “Why does heavy rainfall cause destruction to the land?  What can be done to prevent the erosion?” The intensity of the heavy rainfall striking the soil has the potential to dislodge particles in the soil and splash them several soil crustingfeet away.  This relocation of particles of soil does not create a smooth surface, but instead can cause particles to fill soil pores or if rapid drying occurs it creates a hardened layer called soil crusting .  This can create conditions that lead to soil erosion.  So what can be done to prevent this?  Farmers work to improve soil structure  by not tilling the soil or by planting cover crops.

What are the biggest negative impacts of soil erosion?  Soil erosion sets into motion many negative influences to our rich soil.  Land degradation will lead to a decline in crop production.  This in turn will  have an adverse effect on the world’s food supply affecting everyone.

Is there any tie between erosion and our water quality? Yes, the connections are too many to mention.  One of the critical connections is surface water runoff.  When soil conservation has not taken place, contaminants can enter watersheds and affect the water quality.  Once again, controlling erosion is a critical link of improving water quality.

What are benefits of soils conservation?  Earthworms  can increase soil organismsaeration and their channeling through the soil enhances natural water drainage.  Proper soil conservation allows these soil organisms to remain unharmed.  Maintaining proper soil PH ensures that nutrients are readily available for growing plants.  Best of all, soil conservation prevents further soil erosion.

We cannot see soil erosion happening.  We just see the aftermath of bare topsoil and ground that appears  stony with a gravel like surface.  Some of these management strategies do carry a cost and so farmers have to consider the best way to manage their soil.  Changes take time to show positive impact but are worth it in the long run.healthy soil

Through extensive efforts, everyone reaps the benefits of taking care of the dark, rich land we in Iowa have been blessed with.  Our personal efforts may seem small, but little things make a big difference in protecting the soil. This effects everyone!

– Sheri

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